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Euthanasia – Wikipedia

Posted: January 14, 2017 at 8:13 am

This article is about euthanasia of humans. For mercy killings performed on other animals, see Animal euthanasia.

Euthanasia (from Greek: ; “good death”: , eu; “well” or “good” , thanatos; “death”) is the practice of intentionally ending a life in order to relieve pain and suffering.[1]

There are different euthanasia laws in each country. The British House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics defines euthanasia as “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering”.[2] In the Netherlands and Flanders, euthanasia is understood as “termination of life by a doctor at the request of a patient”.[3]

Euthanasia is categorized in different ways, which include voluntary, non-voluntary, or involuntary. Voluntary euthanasia is legal in some countries. Non-voluntary euthanasia (patient’s consent unavailable) is illegal in all countries. Involuntary euthanasia (without asking consent or against the patient’s will) is also illegal in all countries and is usually considered murder.[4] As of 2006, euthanasia is the most active area of research in contemporary bioethics.[5]

In some countries there is a divisive public controversy over the moral, ethical, and legal issues of euthanasia. Those who are against euthanasia may argue for the sanctity of life, while proponents of euthanasia rights emphasize alleviating suffering, and preserving bodily integrity, self-determination, and personal autonomy.[6] Jurisdictions where euthanasia is legal include the Netherlands, Canada,[7]Colombia, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Like other terms borrowed from history, “euthanasia” has had different meanings depending on usage. The first apparent usage of the term “euthanasia” belongs to the historian Suetonius, who described how the Emperor Augustus, “dying quickly and without suffering in the arms of his wife, Livia, experienced the ‘euthanasia’ he had wished for.”[8] The word “euthanasia” was first used in a medical context by Francis Bacon in the 17th century, to refer to an easy, painless, happy death, during which it was a “physician’s responsibility to alleviate the ‘physical sufferings’ of the body.” Bacon referred to an “outward euthanasia”the term “outward” he used to distinguish from a spiritual conceptthe euthanasia “which regards the preparation of the soul.”[9]

In current usage, euthanasia has been defined as the “painless inducement of a quick death”.[10] However, it is argued that this approach fails to properly define euthanasia, as it leaves open a number of possible actions which would meet the requirements of the definition, but would not be seen as euthanasia. In particular, these include situations where a person kills another, painlessly, but for no reason beyond that of personal gain; or accidental deaths that are quick and painless, but not intentional.[11][12]

Another approach incorporates the notion of suffering into the definition.[11] The definition offered by the Oxford English Dictionary incorporates suffering as a necessary condition, with “the painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma”,[13] This approach is included in Marvin Khol and Paul Kurtz’s definition of it as “a mode or act of inducing or permitting death painlessly as a relief from suffering”.[14] Counterexamples can be given: such definitions may encompass killing a person suffering from an incurable disease for personal gain (such as to claim an inheritance), and commentators such as Tom Beauchamp and Arnold Davidson have argued that doing so would constitute “murder simpliciter” rather than euthanasia.[11]

The third element incorporated into many definitions is that of intentionality the death must be intended, rather than being accidental, and the intent of the action must be a “merciful death”.[11] Michael Wreen argued that “the principal thing that distinguishes euthanasia from intentional killing simpliciter is the agent’s motive: it must be a good motive insofar as the good of the person killed is concerned.”[15] Similarly, Heather Draper speaks to the importance of motive, arguing that “the motive forms a crucial part of arguments for euthanasia, because it must be in the best interests of the person on the receiving end.”[12] Definitions such as that offered by the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics take this path, where euthanasia is defined as “a deliberate intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, to relieve intractable suffering.”[2] Beauchamp and Davidson also highlight Baruch Brody’s “an act of euthanasia is one in which one person… (A) kills another person (B) for the benefit of the second person, who actually does benefit from being killed”.[16]

Draper argued that any definition of euthanasia must incorporate four elements: an agent and a subject; an intention; a causal proximity, such that the actions of the agent lead to the outcome; and an outcome. Based on this, she offered a definition incorporating those elements, stating that euthanasia “must be defined as death that results from the intention of one person to kill another person, using the most gentle and painless means possible, that is motivated solely by the best interests of the person who dies.”[17] Prior to Draper, Beauchamp and Davidson had also offered a definition that includes these elements. Their definition specifically discounts fetuses in order to distinguish between abortions and euthanasia:[18]

“In summary, we have argued… that the death of a human being, A, is an instance of euthanasia if and only if (1) A’s death is intended by at least one other human being, B, where B is either the cause of death or a causally relevant feature of the event resulting in death (whether by action or by omission); (2) there is either sufficient current evidence for B to believe that A is acutely suffering or irreversibly comatose, or there is sufficient current evidence related to A’s present condition such that one or more known causal laws supports B’s belief that A will be in a condition of acute suffering or irreversible comatoseness; (3) (a) B’s primary reason for intending A’s death is cessation of A’s (actual or predicted future) suffering or irreversible comatoseness, where B does not intend A’s death for a different primary reason, though there may be other relevant reasons, and (b) there is sufficient current evidence for either A or B that causal means to A’s death will not produce any more suffering than would be produced for A if B were not to intervene; (4) the causal means to the event of A’s death are chosen by A or B to be as painless as possible, unless either A or B has an overriding reason for a more painful causal means, where the reason for choosing the latter causal means does not conflict with the evidence in 3b; (5) A is a nonfetal organism.”[19]

Wreen, in part responding to Beauchamp and Davidson, offered a six-part definition:

“Person A committed an act of euthanasia if and only if (1) A killed B or let her die; (2) A intended to kill B; (3) the intention specified in (2) was at least partial cause of the action specified in (1); (4) the causal journey from the intention specified in (2) to the action specified in (1) is more or less in accordance with A’s plan of action; (5) A’s killing of B is a voluntary action; (6) the motive for the action specified in (1), the motive standing behind the intention specified in (2), is the good of the person killed.”[20]

Wreen also considered a seventh requirement: “(7) The good specified in (6) is, or at least includes, the avoidance of evil”, although as Wreen noted in the paper, he was not convinced that the restriction was required.[21]

In discussing his definition, Wreen noted the difficulty of justifying euthanasia when faced with the notion of the subject’s “right to life”. In response, Wreen argued that euthanasia has to be voluntary, and that “involuntary euthanasia is, as such, a great wrong”.[21] Other commentators incorporate consent more directly into their definitions. For example, in a discussion of euthanasia presented in 2003 by the European Association of Palliative Care (EPAC) Ethics Task Force, the authors offered: “Medicalized killing of a person without the person’s consent, whether nonvoluntary (where the person in unable to consent) or involuntary (against the person’s will) is not euthanasia: it is murder. Hence, euthanasia can be voluntary only.”[22] Although the EPAC Ethics Task Force argued that both non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia could not be included in the definition of euthanasia, there is discussion in the literature about excluding one but not the other.[21]

Euthanasia may be classified according to whether a person gives informed consent into three types: voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary.[23][24]

There is a debate within the medical and bioethics literature about whether or not the non-voluntary (and by extension, involuntary) killing of patients can be regarded as euthanasia, irrespective of intent or the patient’s circumstances. In the definitions offered by Beauchamp and Davidson and, later, by Wreen, consent on the part of the patient was not considered as one of their criteria, although it may have been required to justify euthanasia.[11][25] However, others see consent as essential.

Euthanasia conducted with the consent of the patient is termed voluntary euthanasia. Active voluntary euthanasia is legal in Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Passive voluntary euthanasia is legal throughout the U.S. per Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. When the patient brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and the U.S. states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

Euthanasia conducted when the consent of the patient is unavailable is termed non-voluntary euthanasia. Examples include child euthanasia, which is illegal worldwide but decriminalised under certain specific circumstances in the Netherlands under the Groningen Protocol.

Euthanasia conducted against the will of the patient is termed involuntary euthanasia.

Voluntary, non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia can all be further divided into passive or active variants.[26] Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life.[2] Active euthanasia entails the use of lethal substances or forces, such as administering a lethal injection, to kill and is the most controversial means. While some authors consider these terms to be misleading and unhelpful, they are nonetheless used in the literature, and so should be clarified and understood. Active euthanasia involves taking deliberate steps to end a patient’s life. As an example, an administration of a lethal compound that might induce a cardiac arrest, a practice that is illegal in most jurisdictions. Passive euthanasia occur when treatments necessary for the continuance of life are withheld. In some cases, such as the administration of increasingly necessary, but toxic doses of painkillers, there is a debate whether or not to regard the practice as active or passive.[2]

According to the historian N. D. A. Kemp, the origin of the contemporary debate on euthanasia started in 1870.[27] Euthanasia is known to have been debated and practiced long before that date. Euthanasia was practiced in Ancient Greece and Rome: for example, hemlock was employed as a means of hastening death on the island of Kea, a technique also employed in Marseilles. Euthanasia, in the sense of the deliberate hastening of a person’s death, was supported by Socrates, Plato and Seneca the Elder in the ancient world, although Hippocrates appears to have spoken against the practice, writing “I will not prescribe a deadly drug to please someone, nor give advice that may cause his death” (noting there is some debate in the literature about whether or not this was intended to encompass euthanasia).[28][29][30]

The term “euthanasia” in the earlier sense of supporting someone as they died was used for the first time by Francis Bacon (15611626). In his work, Euthanasia medica, he chose this ancient Greek word and, in doing so, distinguished between euthanasia interior, the preparation of the soul for death, and euthanasia exterior, which was intended to make the end of life easier and painless, in exceptional circumstances by shortening life. That the ancient meaning of an easy death came to the fore again in the early modern period can be seen from its definition in the 18th century Zedlers Universallexikon:

The concept of euthanasia in the sense of alleviating the process of death goes back to the medical historian, Karl Friedrich Heinrich Marx, who drew on Bacon’s philosophical ideas. According to Marx, a doctor had a moral duty to ease the suffering of death through encouragement, support and mitigation using medication. Such an “alleviation of death” reflected the contemporary Zeitgeist, but was brought into the medical canon of responsibility for the first time by Marx. Marx also stressed the distinction between the theological care of the soul of sick people from the physical care and medical treatment by doctors.[32][33]

Euthanasia in its modern sense has always been strongly opposed in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thomas Aquinas opposed both and argued that the practice of euthanasia contradicted our natural human instincts of survival,[34] as did Francois Ranchin (15651641), a French physician and professor of medicine, and Michael Boudewijns (16011681), a physician and teacher.[29]:208[35] Other voices argued for euthanasia, such as John Donne in 1624,[36] and euthanasia continued to be practised. In 1678, the publication of Caspar Questel’s De pulvinari morientibus non subtrahend, (“On the pillow of which the dying should not be deprived”), initiated debate on the topic. Questel described various customs which were employed at the time to hasten the death of the dying, (including the sudden removal of a pillow, which was believed to accelerate death), and argued against their use, as doing so was “against the laws of God and Nature”.[29]:209211 This view was shared by many who followed, including Philipp Jakob Spener, Veit Riedlin and Johann Georg Krnitz.[29]:211 Despite opposition, euthanasia continued to be practised, involving techniques such as bleeding, suffocation, and removing people from their beds to be placed on the cold ground.[29]:211214

Suicide and euthanasia became more accepted during the Age of Enlightenment.[35]Thomas More wrote of euthanasia in Utopia, although it is not clear if More was intending to endorse the practice.[29]:208209 Other cultures have taken different approaches: for example, in Japan suicide has not traditionally been viewed as a sin, as it is used in cases of honor, and accordingly, the perceptions of euthanasia are different from those in other parts of the world.[37]

In the mid-1800s, the use of morphine to treat “the pains of death” emerged, with John Warren recommending its use in 1848. A similar use of chloroform was revealed by Joseph Bullar in 1866. However, in neither case was it recommended that the use should be to hasten death. In 1870 Samuel Williams, a schoolteacher, initiated the contemporary euthanasia debate through a speech given at the Birmingham Speculative Club in England, which was subsequently published in a one-off publication entitled Essays of the Birmingham Speculative Club, the collected works of a number of members of an amateur philosophical society.[38]:794 Williams’ proposal was to use chloroform to deliberately hasten the death of terminally ill patients:

That in all cases of hopeless and painful illness, it should be the recognized duty of the medical attendant, whenever so desired by the patient, to administer choloroform or such other anaesthetic as may by-and-bye supersede chloroform so as to destroy consciousness at once, and put the sufferer to a quick and painless death; all needful precautions being adopted to prevent any possible abuse of such duty; and means being taken to establish, beyond the possibility of doubt or question, that the remedy was applied at the express wish of the patient.

The essay was favourably reviewed in The Saturday Review, but an editorial against the essay appeared in The Spectator.[27] From there it proved to be influential, and other writers came out in support of such views: Lionel Tollemache wrote in favour of euthanasia, as did Annie Besant, the essayist and reformer who later became involved with the National Secular Society, considering it a duty to society to “die voluntarily and painlessly” when one reaches the point of becoming a ‘burden’.[27][39]Popular Science analyzed the issue in May 1873, assessing both sides of the argument.[40] Kemp notes that at the time, medical doctors did not participate in the discussion; it was “essentially a philosophical enterprise… tied inextricably to a number of objections to the Christian doctrine of the sanctity of human life”.[27]

The rise of the euthanasia movement in the United States coincided with the so-called Gilded Age, a time of social and technological change that encompassed an “individualistic conservatism that praised laissez-faire economics, scientific method, and rationalism”, along with major depressions, industrialisation and conflict between corporations and labour unions.[38]:794 It was also the period in which the modern hospital system was developed, which has been seen as a factor in the emergence of the euthanasia debate.[41]

Robert Ingersoll argued for euthanasia, stating in 1894 that where someone is suffering from a terminal illness, such as terminal cancer, they should have a right to end their pain through suicide. Felix Adler offered a similar approach, although, unlike Ingersoll, Adler did not reject religion. In fact, he argued from an Ethical Culture framework. In 1891, Alder argued that those suffering from overwhelming pain should have the right to commit suicide, and, furthermore, that it should be permissible for a doctor to assist thus making Adler the first “prominent American” to argue for suicide in cases where people were suffering from chronic illness.[42] Both Ingersoll and Adler argued for voluntary euthanasia of adults suffering from terminal ailments.[42] Dowbiggin argues that by breaking down prior moral objections to euthanasia and suicide, Ingersoll and Adler enabled others to stretch the definition of euthanasia.[43]

The first attempt to legalise euthanasia took place in the United States, when Henry Hunt introduced legislation into the General Assembly of Ohio in 1906.[44]:614 Hunt did so at the behest of Anna Hall, a wealthy heiress who was a major figure in the euthanasia movement during the early 20th century in the United States. Hall had watched her mother die after an extended battle with liver cancer, and had dedicated herself to ensuring that others would not have to endure the same suffering. Towards this end she engaged in an extensive letter writing campaign, recruited Lurana Sheldon and Maud Ballington Booth, and organised a debate on euthanasia at the annual meeting of the American Humane Association in 1905 described by Jacob Appel as the first significant public debate on the topic in the 20th century.[44]:614616

Hunt’s bill called for the administration of an anesthetic to bring about a patient’s death, so long as the person is of lawful age and sound mind, and was suffering from a fatal injury, an irrevocable illness, or great physical pain. It also required that the case be heard by a physician, required informed consent in front of three witnesses, and required the attendance of three physicians who had to agree that the patient’s recovery was impossible. A motion to reject the bill outright was voted down, but the bill failed to pass, 79 to 23.[38]:796[44]:618619

Along with the Ohio euthanasia proposal, in 1906 Assemblyman Ross Gregory introduced a proposal to permit euthanasia to the Iowa legislature. However, the Iowa legislation was broader in scope than that offered in Ohio. It allowed for the death of any person of at least ten years of age who suffered from an ailment that would prove fatal and cause extreme pain, should they be of sound mind and express a desire to artificially hasten their death. In addition, it allowed for infants to be euthanised if they were sufficiently deformed, and permitted guardians to request euthanasia on behalf of their wards. The proposed legislation also imposed penalties on physicians who refused to perform euthanasia when requested: a 612 month prison term and a fine of between $200 and $1000. The proposal proved to be controversial.[44]:619621 It engendered considerable debate and failed to pass, having been withdrawn from consideration after being passed to the Committee on Public Health.[44]:623

After 1906 the euthanasia debate reduced in intensity, resurfacing periodically, but not returning to the same level of debate until the 1930s in the United Kingdom.[38]:796

The Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society was founded in 1935 by Charles Killick Millard (now called Dignity in Dying). The movement campaigned for the legalisation of euthanasia in Great Britain.

In January 1936, King George V was given a fatal dose of morphine and cocaine in order to hasten his death. At the time he was suffering from cardio-respiratory failure, and the decision to end his life was made by his physician, Lord Dawson.[45] Although this event was kept a secret for over 50 years, the death of George V coincided with proposed legislation in the House of Lords to legalise euthanasia. The legislation came through the British Volunteer Euthanasia Legalisation Society.[46]

Euthanasia opponent Ian Dowbiggin argues that the early membership of the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) reflected how many perceived euthanasia at the time, often seeing it as a eugenics matter rather than an issue concerning individual rights.[42] Dowbiggin argues that not every eugenist joined the ESA “solely for eugenic reasons”, but he postulates that there were clear ideological connections between the eugenics and euthanasia movements.[42]

A 24 July 1939 killing of a severely disabled infant in Nazi Germany was described in a BBC “Genocide Under the Nazis Timeline” as the first “state-sponsored euthanasia”.[47] Parties that consented to the killing included Hitler’s office, the parents, and the Reich Committee for the Scientific Registration of Serious and Congenitally Based Illnesses.[47]The Telegraph noted that the killing of the disabled infantwhose name was Gerhard Kretschmar, born blind, with missing limbs, subject to convulsions, and reportedly “an idiot” provided “the rationale for a secret Nazi decree that led to ‘mercy killings’ of almost 300,000 mentally and physically handicapped people”.[48] While Kretchmar’s killing received parental consent, most of the 5,000 to 8,000 children killed afterwards were forcibly taken from their parents.[47][48]

The “euthanasia campaign” of mass murder gathered momentum on 14 January 1940 when the “handicapped” were killed with gas vans and killing centres, eventually leading to the deaths of 70,000 adult Germans.[49] Professor Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors and a leading authority on the T4 program, contrasts this program with what he considers to be a genuine euthanasia. He explains that the Nazi version of “euthanasia” was based on the work of Adolf Jost, who published The Right to Death (Das Recht auf den Tod) in 1895. Lifton writes: “Jost argued that control over the death of the individual must ultimately belong to the social organism, the state. This concept is in direct opposition to the Anglo-American concept of euthanasia, which emphasizes the individual’s ‘right to die’ or ‘right to death’ or ‘right to his or her own death,’ as the ultimate human claim. In contrast, Jost was pointing to the state’s right to kill…. Ultimately the argument was biological: ‘The rights to death [are] the key to the fitness of life.’ The state must own deathmust killin order to keep the social organism alive and healthy.”[50]

In modern terms, the use of “euthanasia” in the context of Action T4 is seen to be a euphemism to disguise a program of genocide, in which people were killed on the grounds of “disabilities, religious beliefs, and discordant individual values”.[51] Compared to the discussions of euthanasia that emerged post-war, the Nazi program may have been worded in terms that appear similar to the modern use of “euthanasia”, but there was no “mercy” and the patients were not necessarily terminally ill.[51] Despite these differences, historian and euthanasia opponent Ian Dowbiggin writes that “the origins of Nazi euthanasia, like those of the American euthanasia movement, predate the Third Reich and were intertwined with the history of eugenics and Social Darwinism, and with efforts to discredit traditional morality and ethics.”[42]:65

On January 6, 1949, the Euthanasia Society of America presented to the New York State Legislature a petition to legalize euthanasia, signed by 379 leading Protestant and Jewish ministers, the largest group of religious leaders ever to have taken this stance. A similar petition had been sent to the New York State Legislature in 1947, signed by approximately 1,000 New York physicians. Catholic religious leaders criticized the petition, saying that such a bill would “legalize a suicide-murder pact” and a “rationalization of the fifth commandment of God, ‘Though Shalt Not Kill.'”[52] The Right Reverend Robert E. McCormick stated that

“The ultimate object of the Euthanasia Society is based on the Totalitarian principle that the state is supreme and that the individual does not have the right to live if his continuance in life is a burden or hindrance to the state. The Nazis followed this principle and compulsory Euthanasia was practiced as a part of their program during the recent war. We American citizens of New York State must ask ourselves this question: ‘Are we going to finish Hitler’s job?'”[52]

The petition brought tensions between the American Euthanasia Society and the Catholic Church to a head that contributed to a climate of anti-Catholic sentiment generally regarding issues such as birth control, eugenics, and population control.[42]

The petition did not lead to a law.

Historically, the euthanasia debate has tended to focus on a number of key concerns. According to euthanasia opponent Ezekiel Emanuel, proponents of euthanasia have presented four main arguments: a) that people have a right to self-determination, and thus should be allowed to choose their own fate; b) assisting a subject to die might be a better choice than requiring that they continue to suffer; c) the distinction between passive euthanasia, which is often permitted, and active euthanasia, which is not substantive (or that the underlying principlethe doctrine of double effectis unreasonable or unsound); and d) permitting euthanasia will not necessarily lead to unacceptable consequences. Pro-euthanasia activists often point to countries like the Netherlands and Belgium, and states like Oregon, where euthanasia has been legalized, to argue that it is mostly unproblematic.

Similarly, Emanuel argues that there are four major arguments presented by opponents of euthanasia: a) not all deaths are painful; b) alternatives, such as cessation of active treatment, combined with the use of effective pain relief, are available; c) the distinction between active and passive euthanasia is morally significant; and d) legalising euthanasia will place society on a slippery slope,[53] which will lead to unacceptable consequences.[38]:7978 In fact, in Oregon, in 2013, pain wasn’t one of the top five reasons people sought euthanasia. Top reasons were a loss of dignity, and a fear of burdening others.[54]

In the United States in 2013, 47% nationwide supported doctor-assisted suicide. This included 32% of Latinos, 29% of African-Americans, and almost nobody with disabilities.[54]

West’s Encyclopedia of American Law states that “a ‘mercy killing’ or euthanasia is generally considered to be a criminal homicide”[55] and is normally used as a synonym of homicide committed at a request made by the patient.[56]

The judicial sense of the term “homicide” includes any intervention undertaken with the express intention of ending a life, even to relieve intractable suffering.[56][57][58] Not all homicide is unlawful.[59] Two designations of homicide that carry no criminal punishment are justifiable and excusable homicide.[59] In most countries this is not the status of euthanasia. The term “euthanasia” is usually confined to the active variety; the University of Washington website states that “euthanasia generally means that the physician would act directly, for instance by giving a lethal injection, to end the patient’s life”.[60]Physician-assisted suicide is thus not classified as euthanasia by the US State of Oregon, where it is legal under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, and despite its name, it is not legally classified as suicide either.[61] Unlike physician-assisted suicide, withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments with patient consent (voluntary) is almost unanimously considered, at least in the United States, to be legal.[62] The use of pain medication in order to relieve suffering, even if it hastens death, has been held as legal in several court decisions.[60]

Some governments around the world have legalized voluntary euthanasia but most commonly it is still considered to be criminal homicide. In the Netherlands and Belgium, where euthanasia has been legalized, it still remains homicide although it is not prosecuted and not punishable if the perpetrator (the doctor) meets certain legal conditions.[63][64][65][66]

A survey in the United States of more than 10,000 physicians came to the result that approximately 16% of physicians would ever consider halting life-sustaining therapy because the family demands it, even if they believed that it was premature. Approximately 55% would not, and for the remaining 29%, it would depend on circumstances.[67]

This study also stated that approximately 46% of physicians agree that physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some cases; 41% do not, and the remaining 14% think it depends.[67]

In the United Kingdom, the pro-assisted dying group Dignity in Dying cite conflicting research on attitudes by doctors to assisted dying: with a 2009 Palliative Medicine-published survey showing 64% support (to 34% oppose) for assisted dying in cases where a patient has an incurable and painful disease, while 49% of doctors in a study published in BMC Medical Ethics oppose changing the law on assisted dying to 39% in favour.[68]

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Euthanasia – Wikipedia

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Silliman’s Blog

Posted: January 13, 2017 at 6:42 am

David Meltzer 1937 – 2016

Here is a note I wrote on David’s work here in 2005.

Ive written on numerous occasions that the so-called San Francisco Renaissance was largely a fiction, perpetrated in part by Donald Allen in order to give The New American Poetry a section that acknowledged just how much of this phenomenon rose up out of the San Francisco Bay Area a literary backwater prior to WW2, but now suddenly a primary locale for much that was new. The other part and its not clear to me who, if anyone, could be said to have perpetrated this was an allusion back to the earlier Berkeley Renaissance, which had been a decisive, thriving literary tendency in the late 1940s, early 1950s. If you look at Allens S.F. Renaissance grouping, you call still make out the vestiges of that earlier moment in the presence of Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer & Robin Blaser, the trio that had given rise to the Berkeley Renaissance while studying at the University of California, along with, I suppose, Helen Adam, who at the time of the anthology was something of a Duncan protg. Yet there are also poets representing an older San Francisco scene, such as Madeline Gleason & James Broughton & even tho its a stretch, given what a loner he was, at least when he wasnt actively channeling Robinson Jeffers Brother Antoninus (William Everson). Then there are a group of younger poets Richard Duerden, Kirby Doyle, Ebbe Borregaard & Bruce Boyd whom its harder to place aesthetically, a fact that is still true some 45 years after the books initial publication, as theyve become its least published participants. That Allen placed Lawrence Ferlinghetti into this grouping, rather than with the Beats, suggests just how arbitrary these distinctions were.

Given that he was improvising & fabricating in search of clustering principles in general, its curious that Allen completely missed one of the most interesting & useful formations among the New Americans, a western poetics that may have first revealed itself at Reed College in Portland, and which didnt fully take flight until the mid- to late-1950s in San Francisco. Gary Snyder, Lew Welch & Phil Whalen in fact were just the first of a number of poets who came out of this aesthetic one could probably put Duerden & Borregaard there as well, plus three other contributors to the Allen anthology, all of whom joined Snyder & Whalen in Allens curiously amorphous unaffiliated fifth grouping: Michael McClure, Ron Loewinsohn & David Meltzer. Beyond the Allen anthology itself, one might add Richard Brautigan, James Koller, Joanne Kyger, David Schaff, Bill Deemer, Drummond Hadley, Clifford Burke, David Gitin, John Oliver Simon, Lowell Levant, John Brandi, Gail Dusenberry & a host of others. In general, these poets were straight where the Duncan-Spicer axis was gay. Perhaps most importantly, this cluster really had no leaders as such. It was not as though some, such as Snyder or Whalen, might not have led by example, but that their personalities were not given to the constant marshalling of opinion that one could identify in such others as Olson, Duncan, Spicer, Ginsberg, OHara or even Creeley. This mode lets call it New Western perhaps reached its pinnacle of influence during the heyday of Jim Kollers Coyotes Journal during the mid-1960s. But without anything like a leader or a program, poised midway aesthetically between the Beats & Olsons vision of Projectivist Verse, the phenomenon never gelled, never became A Thing & by the 1970s already was entering into an entropic period from which it has yet to re-emerge.

Actually, considering just how many of the Beat poets were treated like rock stars while Meltzer, fronting Serpent Power with his late wife Tina (and drums by Clark Coolidge), actually had a rock band long before Jim Carroll or Patti Smith, its odd that Meltzer hasnt become much more widely known, celebrated before this. Davids Copy is at least the fourth selected poems hes published, the others being Tens, Arrows & The Name, and many of his earlier books were published by Black Sparrow, one of the rare small presses to have had some volumes mostly those by Charles Bukowski widely distributed through the big book chains.

Part of this neglect may also be due to the fact that Meltzer is Jewish. Its not that there were no Jews among the New Americans Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Eigner all come instantly to mind. But the intersection between the New American poetry & the New Age approach to religious experience in the 1960s (Serpent Power?) tended to mute its presence in all but Ginsbergs writing. Indeed, I wouldnt be at all shocked to discover that many readers of Eigner were late to discover the heritage of the bard of Swampscott. In the 1960s, the Objectivists were only gradually coming back into print. And Jerome Rothenberg didnt really begin making the space for an active presence for a Jewish space within American poetics until late in that decade, during that interregnum betwixt the New Americans & language poetry.

Finally, Meltzer and this I think is a sign of his youth relative, say, to Whalen or Snyder or Ginsberg or Olson or Duncan or OHara et al lacked the kind of visible trademark of a differentiated literary style that one associates with all of the above, and even with someone closer to Meltzers age, like Michael McClure. Meltzers work has always been in the vicinity of New American poetics without ever being its own recognizable brand as such, it would be difficult if not impossible for a younger poet to mimic. Its not that Meltzer lacked the chops & more as though he never saw the need per se. In this sense, Meltzers situation is not unlike that, say, of a Jack Collom, another terrific poet of roughly the same generation who has never really gotten the recognition he deserves. In a sense, those who were a little further outside the New American circle like poets in New York who were visibly not NY School, such as Rothenberg, Antin, Ed Sanders or Joel Oppenheimer had an advantage because their circumstance forced them to define themselves in opposition even to poets whose work they cherished.

Indeed, if there is a defining element or signature device in Meltzers work, its that he alone among the New Westerns has an eye for the hard edges of pop culture, something one expects from the NY School. Often, as in this passage from Hollywood Poems, its accompanied by a tremendously agile ear:

De Chirico without Cheracol saw space where its dead echo opened up a plain unbroken by the dancers. Instead a relic supermarket nobody shops at. Plaster-of-Paris bust of Augustus Claude Rains Caesar face-down beneath a Keinholz table whose top is blue with Shirley Temples saucers, pitchers. Mickey Mouse wind-up dolls in rows like Detroit. All tilt out of the running without electricity. Veils of history, garments worn in movies, hung on steel racks at Costume R.K.O. R. Karo wouldve used the towers light. Hed wear it as a cap to re-route lost energy.

So dense with details that it rides like a list (& sounds like a Clark Coolidge poem), this passage is actually a better depiction of a De Chirico landscape than those one finds in John Ashberys poetry. Davids Copy is filled with such moments, which makes it a terrific read.

One might squabble with the fact that the book is not strictly chronological, or that the first 25 years of his writing gets more weight (over 150 pages) than does the last 25 (roughly 100), tho I suspect thats because more of the recent work is still in print. On the whole, such squabbles are few. Editor Michael Rothenberg had done a first-rate job here, smartly including bibliography & a decent two-page bio note from Meltzer & an excellent introduction from Jerry Rothenberg. Toward the end of the introduction, Rothenberg notes:

Elsewhere, in speaking about himself, he tells us that when he was very young, he wanted to write a long poem called The History of Everything. It was an ambition shared, maybe unknowingly, with a number of other young poets the sense of what Clayton Eshleman called a poetry that attempts to become responsible for all the poet knows about himself and his world. Then as now it ran into a contrary directive: to think small or to write in ignorance of what had come before or in deference to critic-masters who were themselves, most often, nonpractitioners & nonseekers.

Paul Blackburn and Me

Edie Jarolim

Its been thirty years since I finished editing the Collected Poems of Paul Blackburn. I still cant quit him.

Paul Blackburn died on September 13, 1971 exactly forty-five years ago today. He was forty-four. I never met him, but I spent more than half a decade with him, writing my dissertation and editing his collected and selected poems. When I started this three-pronged project, it seemed to me that Blackburn had lived a reasonably long life. By the time I finished, I thought hed died tragically young.


I first encountered Blackburn in the late 1970s through M.L. Rosenthal, whose Yeats seminar I had taken as a grad student at NYU. Id been contemplating writing a thesis about one of the confessional poets, Rosenthals specialty, but when I went in to talk to him about possible dissertation subjects, Rosenthal said, What do you think about Paul Blackburn?

I hadnt thought about him at all. Id never heard of him. Rosenthal explained, Blackburns widow asked me to edit his collected poems. I dont have the time but I told her I would pass the job along to a qualified graduate student. He added, If you do the scholarly edition for your dissertation, youll end up with a published book when you get your Ph.D.

I got hold of The Cities, the book Rosenthal had recommended as quintessential Blackburn. Many of the poems were about the BMT subway line, which Id grown up riding in Brooklyn. I admired Blackburns technical skill, his musical score-like notations of the works, his ability to make the writing look easy. I shoved down my doubts about his attitudes towards women. A published book… Now there was a shiny object for an aspiring academic.

The project turned out to be far more complex than Id anticipated. First, I had to come up with a criterion for inclusion in the edition. I opted for poems that had been previously published. But what constituted publication? A lot of Blackburn poems appeared only in mimeographed editions. Should those be included?

I next had to decide on an organization. Should the poems appear in the same groupings as the published volumes? There was too much overlap, and many poems were published in poetry journals but not books.

My choice of a chronological arrangement led to other questions: Should the date be based on the first draft of the poem or the published version? And how would I determine the first draft date? And if Blackburn revised the poem after it was published, which version should I use?

I became a poetry detective, interviewing ex-wives and friends, identifying typewriters, tracking down biographical clues in the poems (luckily there were a lot of those). The process was fascinating, but time consuming. It didnt help my efficiency that I was commuting between New York and San Diego, where Blackburns widow, Joan, had sold his papers to UCSDs Archive for New Poetry.

San Diego now there was another shiny object. A typical Easterner, I went there expecting to find a smaller version of Los Angles. The freeways were there, and also some of the congestion, but so was a seascape of surprisingly pristine beauty, and a string of coastal cities, each with their own distinct character. USCD resided in the poshest and probably most stunning of them all, La Jolla.

I was hired to catalogue Blackburns archive and thus was often on the scene for the groundbreaking reading series created by poet Michael Davidson, the Archive for New Poetrys director. I became part of the inner circle of the graduate students and young academics in the UCSD literature department. I also got friendly with the local writers in town (Rae Armantrout and Jerome Rothenberg, for example), as well as visiting writers like Lydia Davis and Ron Silliman. By no means was this project all work and no play.

I never quite pinned down how I felt about Blackburns poetry, but after a while it didnt matter. The editing was an end in itself and Paul Blackburn was part of my life, day and night. He haunted my dreams. Sometimes the scenarios were sexual, sometimes as everyday as my kitchen cabinets. Kind of like his poetry.

Finally, I had a scholarly edition of 623 poems. For each, I detailed the decisions that went into the editing and dating. I added a critical introduction of maybe 50 pages, discussing Blackburns biography and his place in the poetry pantheon as well as the editing theory.

Seemed like a wrap to me.

The powers that be at NYU disagreed. Now that his oeuvre had been established by me! they argued that I had a basis for a real dissertation, a 200-page critical introduction about Blackburn himself, rather than about the editing process. Who says irony is dead?

When I finished this next Sisyphean task, I brought eight volumes into the office of the recorder at NYU. She said, Youre only supposed to bring in two copies of your dissertation.

That is two copies, I said.

Id had it with academia by then. It wasnt just the hoops Id had to jump through at NYU. By the time I took my qualifying exams, my prose style had been pulverized; I had the sentence structure of Henry James and the verbal clarity of Yogi Berra. A decade earlier, I was writing college papers praised for their lucidity. Next thing I knew, I was submitting a proposal for a dissertation titled From Apocalypse to Entropy: An Eschatological Study of the American Novel. I switched thesis topics and advisors but didnt kick the jargon and passive construction habits.

Which was a problem, because what I really wanted to be was a writer, not a literary critic.

My not so-brilliant career plan had been to get tenure and then, in my spare time, devote myself to my craft, in whatever genre that turned out to be. Being a teaching assistant at NYU had cured me of any desire to teach, which I realized would be the main part of my job description. And that published book that was going to help me secure my place in academia? It wasnt going to do the trick or even come close. Paul Blackburn, I now understood, was a dead white guy, academia-speak for someone representing the establishment. My untrendy specialty would consign me to the boonies before I couldmaybe, possibly, who knows? snag a job in a decent city.

Nor did I want to give up my Greenwich Village apartment.

I grew up in Brooklyn and had finally acquired what every bridge-and-tunnel brat aspired to in the days before the boroughs became hip: a rent-stabilized place in Manhattan. Call me crazy, but I didnt want to move someplace I didnt want to live to do something I didnt want to do.

I helped with the publication of the Collected Poems by Persea Press in 1985. I tackled the Selected Poems next. Somewhere in between there were small Blackburn books The Parallel Voyages, The Lost Journals and a few journal articles.

Slowly but surely I opted out of my role as the keeper of the Blackburn flame, handmaiden to his reputation and as a potential academic.

First, I happened into a job as a guidebook editor at the travel division of Simon and Schuster. It took two more travel publishing jobs and a move to Tucson in 1992 to finally jumpstart my long-delayed writing career. This time, I had fewer qualms about leaving New York.


My retreat from all things Blackburn continued until 9/11. My niece had phoned from San Antonio to make sure I was okay; though I was living in Tucson, I often visited New York and my old digs in lower Manhattan.

Talk about wake up calls. Suppose I were to die suddenly and intestate? I was divorced, had no children, and my parents were no longer alive. Everything would have gone by default to my older sister, from whom I was estranged. I didnt have much of an estate, except my literal estate. I loved the swirled stucco home near the University of Arizona that I had bought for a song and I still loved literature. I decided to will my house to the UAs excellent Poetry Center, where it would be a residence for visiting writers. It would be named for Paul Blackburn.

One day, maybe two years ago, a friend tagged me on Facebook to join a poetry discussion about Paul Blackburn. It was like attending my own funeral. One of the participants wondered what had happened to me. Another chimed in, authoritatively, that I had become a professional dog person. Clearly, my dog blog had better SEO than my genealogy blog.

This public erasure of my career between the Blackburn years and the publication of my dog book was one of the many things that inspired me to finish a memoir that had been on the back burner for about a decade, called Getting Naked for Money. Traditional publishing had by now hit the skids and I wanted more control over my work and, especially, over my royalties. I started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to publish it myself.

It was through that campaign and reconnecting with old friends from my poetry past that I discovered there had been a combined celebration of the digitizing of Paul Blackburns archive at UCSD/surprise retirement party for Michael Davidsonto which I hadnt been invited. Well, fuck. Now even that accomplishment had been erased.

I thought about my bequest to the UA. Why was I still holding on to any connection to Paul Blackburn? Others around me had clearly moved on, abnegating my role. I still wanted to will my house to the university as a writers residence, but now, I decided, it would be reserved for women over 50 writing in any genre. Women that the world tended to ignore, in spite of the good work they were doing.

I contacted the UA and said Id like to change the terms of my bequest.

This was about a month ago. Heres where the story gets really weird.

At around the same time, I had dinner with a woman whose acquaintance I had made earlier this year at a Seder, another single ex-New Yorker. I started telling her about changing my bequest to the UA. She interrupted me mid-sentence. Did you say Paul Blackburn? she practically shouted.

Yes, I said, Paul Blackburn. I thought she was confused. Blackburn had always been a poets poet. In my experience, the publication of the Collected Poems and Selected Poems hadnt done much to widen his reputation.

She knew exactly whom I meant. Paul Blackburn had been her first lover. She had been 17; he had been in his mid-thirties and married to his second wife, Sara. They saw each other for about a year. She eventually left New York and married someone else but always thought, somehow, that Paul would turn up in her town, maybe to give a reading. She was shocked to learn that he died, about a year after the fact.

She sent me pictures that she and Paul had taken in a photo booth, he preserved in amber with a little goatee, she in a fresh-faced youthful incarnation that was equally mythical to me.

I wasnt surprised at the revelation of the affair; his poetry had always hinted at infidelities. I was saddened because Id liked Sara Blackburn the few brief times Id met her, but I was hardly one to judge. Mostly, I was appalled at the age and power difference. As my friend said, if it was today, he might have been charged with statutory rape by her parents.

I felt like I was in a weird time loop, doomed to relive a past that was no longer relevant to my present over and over.

And, I figured, if you cant escape your past, you can share your version of it with a little help from your friends.

Labels: Edie Jarolim, Paul Blackburn

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H+: True Transhumanism – Essentials | Metanexus

Posted: January 12, 2017 at 1:41 pm

In his Global Spiral paper, Of Which Humans Are We Post? Don Ihde wonders whether all this bother about the concepts of human, transhuman, and posthuman arose with Foucault. The answer is no, they did not. Much earlier thinkers raised these questions in one form or another. Foucaults discussion in the Order of Things appeared only in 1973. Even if we limit ourselves to modern discussions of these concepts, Foucault is almost irrelevant. This is certainly true of the kinds of thinkers with whom Ihde concerns himself. The only people he actually names are Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, and Ray Kurzweil, but Ihde is clearly commenting on the general thrust of modern transhumanist thought.

Our modern biologically and genetically-defined sub-species, Homo sapiens sapiens, has been around for 100,000 to 200,000 years. Theres some plausibility in Ihdes suggestion that the modern concept of human formed only in the last 3 or 4 centuries: the Cartesian-Lockean human. The emphasis on the rational capacities of human beings, however, lies further back with Plato and Aristotle (in their two quite differing ways). Aristotle didnt have the Lockean notion of individual rights, but they werent a big stretch from the Great Greeks view of the individual good as personal flourishing through the development of potentialdevelopment that would need a protected space. The Cartesian-Lockean human was crucially followed by the Darwinian and Freudian human, which took human beings out from the center of creation and some distance away from the transparently rational human of the old philosophers. Even so, I heartily agree that reassessing our interpretation of the human is timely and important.

The biologists conception of what it is to be a member of the human species so far remains useful: Our species is a group of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other such groups.1 Although useful, that species-based definition and the related genetically-delimited identification of human is becoming increasingly inadequate as our further evolution depends more on the scientific and technological products of our minds. The transhumans or posthumans we may become as individuals (if we live long enough) or as a species may quite possibly share our current DNA, but implants, regenerative medicine, medical nanotechnology, neural-computer interfaces, and other technologies and cultural practices are likely to gradually render our chromosomes almost vestigial components of our individual and species identity.

While I agree with Ihde on the need for (further) discussion of the concepts and significance of human, transhuman, and posthuman, I find many of his comments to be directed at transhumanists who barely exist (if at all). I resonate with the project of understanding potentially obfuscating idols such as Bacon described. But Ihdes discussion of his own four idols seems to be more of a straw man than an accurate critique of contemporary transhumanist views. I find this to be true especially of his Idol of Paradise and Idol of Prediction. The other two idolsof Intelligent Design and the Cyborg contain relatively little critical commentary, and so I find less in them to object to.

True Transhumanism

A few years ago, I received a telephone call from researchers from the Oxford English Dictionary who were looking into the possibility of adding transhumanism to that authoritative bible of word usage. That addition has just now happeneda little behind the widespread adoption of the term around the world. Although Dante and Huxley used the term earlier, I first (and independently) coined the modern sense of the term around two decades ago in my essay Transhumanism: Toward a Futurist Philosophy. My currently preferred definition, shared by other transhumanists is as follows:

Since I will argue that most of Ihdes critical comments and Idols succeed in damaging only views that few or no transhumanists actually hold, it makes sense for me to establish my knowledge of those views. Apart from first defining and explaining the philosophical framework of transhumanism, I wrote the Principles of Extropy and co-founded Extropy Institute to explore it and to spur the development of a movement (for want of a better term) based on transhumanism. That movement has grown from numerous sources in addition to my own work and become a global philosophy attracting a remarkable amount of commentary, both pro and con. In some minds (certainly in that of Francis Fukuyama) it has become the most dangerous idea in the world.

Ihdes own four idols of thought refer more to straw positions than to real views held by most contemporary transhumanists. That doesnt mean that he went astray in choosing Francis Bacon and his four idols from his 1620 work Novum Organum2 as an inspiration. Around the same time that I defined transhumanism I also suggested that transhumanists consider dropping the Western traditional but terribly outdated Christian calendar for a new one in which year zero would be the year in which Novum Organum was published (so that we would now be entering 389 PNO, or Post Novum Organum, rather than 2009). Despite Aristotles remarkable work on the foundations of logic and his unprecedented study On the Parts of Animals, Bacons work first set out the essence of the scientific method. That conceptual framework is, of course, utterly central to the goals of transhumanismas well as the key to seeing where Ihdes Idols (especially that of Paradise) fail accurately to get to grips with real, existing transhumanist thought.

Bacons own four idols still have much to recommend them. His Idols of the Tribe and of the Cave could plausibly be seen as the core of important ideas from todays cognitive and social psychology. These idols could comfortably encompass the work on biases and heuristics by Kahneman and Tversky and other psychologists and behavioral finance and economics researchers. The Idols of the Cave are deceptive thoughts that arise within the mind of the individual. These deceptive thoughts come in many differing forms. In the case of Don Ihdes comments on transhumanist thinking, we might define a sub-species of Bacons Idol and call it the Idol of Non-Situated Criticism. (A close cousin of The Idol of the Straw Man.)

Many of Ihdes comments sound quite sensible and reasonable, but to whom do they apply? The only transhumanists Ihde mentions (without actually referencing any specific works of theirs) are Hans Moravec, Marvin Minsky, and Ray Kurzweil. In The Idol of Prediction, Ihde says In the same narratives concerning the human, the posthuman and the transhuman but never tells us just which narratives hes talking about. The lack of referents will leave most readers with a distorted view of true transhumanism. There are silly transhumanists of course, just as silly thinkers can be found in any other school of thought. I take my job here to be distinguishing the various forms of transhumanism held by most transhumanists from the easy but caricatured target created by Ihde (and many other critics).

Critics misconceptions are legion, but here I will focus on those found in Ihdes paper. I declare that:

From Utopia to Extropia

According to Ihde, technofantasy hype is the current code for magic. As an example, he picks on the poor, foolish fellow (Lewis L. Strauss) who fantasized that nuclear fission would provide a limitless supply of energy too cheap to meter. Technofantasy is magical thinking because magic produces outcomes that are completely free of trade-offs and unclear and unintended consequences. Magical technologies simply make it so. In these technofantasies, only the paradisical [sic] results are desired. It might have been better if Ihde had talked of divine thinking rather than magical thinking since, in a great many fables and other stories, the use of magic does bring unintended consequences (perhaps most famously in the various genie-in-a-bottle tales). Still, the point is clear. But does it apply to actual transhumanist thinkers? After all, Ihdes well-worn example is not from a transhumanist, but from an excessively enthusiastic promoter of nuclear fission as an energy source.

It is easy to throw around a term like technofantasy, but exactly is it? What appears to be fantasy, what appears to be a magical technology, depends on the time frame you adopt. Clearly many of todays technologies would appear magical to people from a few centuries ago. That point was stated memorably in Arthur C. Clarkes Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.3 Take someone from, lets say, the 15th century, and expose them to air travel, television, or Google and they would probably ask what powerful demon or mage created them.

Of course there is such a thing as technofantasy: its imaginary technology that ignores the laws of physics as we currently understand them. Any remarkable technology, so long as it is not physically impossible, cannot reasonably be described as magical thinking. Projecting technological developments within the limits of science is projection or exploratory engineering, not fantasya distinction crucial to separating the genres of hard science fiction from soft SF and outright fantasy. Seamless and magical operation remains a worthy goal for real technologies, however difficult it may be to achieve (as in transparent computing). Hence the ring of truth from Gehms Corollary to Clarke’s Third Law: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.

Although seamless and reliable technologies deserve a place as a goal for transhumanists, the ideas of perfection and paradise do not. We find those concepts in religious thinking but not in transhumanism. There are one or two possible exceptions: Some Singularitarians may be more prone to a kind of magical thinking in the sense that they see the arrival of greater than human intelligence almost instantly transforming the world beyond recognition. But even they are acutely aware of the dangers of super-intelligent AI. In contrast to Ihdes straw man characterization, most transhumanistsand certainly those who resonate with the transhumanist philosophy of extropydo not see utopia or perfection as even a goal, let alone an expected future posthuman world. Rather, transhumanism, like Enlightenment humanism, is a meliorist view. Transhumanists reject all forms of apologismthe view that it is wrong for humans to attempt to alter the conditions of life for the better.

The Idol of Paradise and the idea of a Platonically perfect, static utopia, is so antithetical to true transhumanism that I coined the term extropia to label a conceptual alternative. Transhumanists seek neither utopia nor dystopia. They seek perpetual progressa never-ending movement toward the ever-distant goal of extropia. One of the Principles of Extropy (the first systematic formulation of transhumanist philosophy that I wrote two decades ago) is Perpetual Progress. This states that transhumanists seek continual improvement in ourselves, our cultures, and our environments. We seek to improve ourselves physically, intellectually, and psychologically. We value the perpetual pursuit of knowledge and understanding. This principle captures the way transhumanists challenge traditional assertions that we should leave human nature fundamentally unchanged in order to conform to Gods will or to what is considered natural.

Transhumanists go beyond most of our traditional humanist predecessors in proposing fundamental alterations in human nature in pursuit of these improvements. We question traditional, biological, genetic, and intellectual constraints on our progress and possibility. The unique conceptual abilities of our species give us the opportunity to advance natures evolution to new peaks. Rather than accepting the undesirable aspects of the human condition, transhumanists of all stripes challenge natural and traditional limitations on our possibilities. We champion the use of science and technology to eradicate constraints on lifespan, intelligence, personal vitality, and freedom.

Or, as I put it in a Letter to Mother Nature: We have decided that it is time to amend the human constitution. We do not do this lightly, carelessly, or disrespectfully, but cautiously, intelligently, and in pursuit of excellence. We intend to make you proud of us. Over the coming decades we will pursue a series of changes to our own constitution

Ihdes positioning of transhumanist thinking as paradisiacal is particularly odd and frustrating given the rather heavy emphasis on risks in modern transhumanist writing. Personally, I think that emphasis has gone too far. Reading Ihde and many other transhumanist-unfriendly critics, you get the impression that transhumanists are careening into a fantastically imagined future, worshipping before the idols of Technology and Progress while giving the finger to caution, risk, trade-offs, and side-effects. These critics cannot have actually read much transhumanist writingcertainly not anything written in the last decade. If they had, they would have immediately run into innumerable papers on and discussions of advanced artificial intelligence, of runaway nanotechnology, of existential risk. They would have come across risk-focused worries by organizations such as the Foresight Institute and the Council on Responsible Nanotechnology. They would have come across my own Proactionary Principle, with its explicit and thorough consideration of risks, side-effects and remote, unforeseen outcomes, and the need to use the best available methods for making decisions and forecasts about technological outcomes.

Intelligent Design and Intelligent Technology

In what seems to me like something of a tangent to his discussion of magical thinking, Ihde says that Desire-fantasy, with respect to technologies, harbor an internal contradiction. He sees a contradiction in wanting to have a technological enhancement and in having that enhancement become (a part of) us. On one hand, if we define the terms just right, it has to be a contradiction to simultaneously have an enhancement and to be enhanced.

But there is no contradiction in the idea that a technology can develop so that it enhances us and eventually becomes part of us. I explored this idea in detail in my doctoral dissertation, The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, Transformation.4 If we absorb a technology, integrating it into ourselves, we can both have and be the technology in the relevant senses. This is much like taking a vaccine nowits an externally devised technology that alters our immune system, but it alters and becomes part of us. Or consider how an externally developed technology like gene therapy or artificial neurons can become integrated into who we are.

Ihde refers to the Idol of Intelligent Design as a kind of arrogance connected to an overestimation of our own design abilities, also embedded in these discussions. Again, he provides no referents for these discussions. He contrasts this idol with a human-material or human-technology set of interactions which through experience and over time yield to emergent trajectories with often unexpected results. This idol is indeed a problem. But Ihdes discussion implies that its a problem among transhumanist thinkers. Given the absence of actual examples, its hard to evaluate this implicit claim. His loaded term arrogance doesnt help. When does confidence become arrogance? Were the Wright brothers arrogant in their belief that they could achieve flight?

What really distinguishes transhumanist views of technology is expressed by what I called Intelligent Technology in the Philosophy of Extropy. I declared that Technology is a natural extension and expression of human intellect and will, of creativity, curiosity, and imagination. I expressed the transhumanist project of encouraging the development of ever more flexible, smart, responsive technology. I spoke for practically all transhumanists in suggesting that We will co-evolve with the products of our minds, integrating with them, finally integrating our intelligent technology into ourselves in a posthuman synthesis, amplifying our abilities and extending our freedom. As bold and unapologetic a statement as this is (befitting a transhumanist declaration) it says nothing about expecting perfectly reliable technologies that have no unintended consequences or outcomes that may trouble us.

Along with an overall (practical or active) optimism regarding technology, theres a strong strain among transhumanists (and especially in the Principles of Extropy) of critical rationalism and spontaneous order. Its true that older technophilesespecially those who might reasonably be labeled technocratshave sought to impose on society a technologically mediated vision of a better future. Transhumanists have far more often challenged this approachwhat Hayek called constructivist rationalism, preferring a self-critical rationalism (or pancritical rationalism5). Critical rationalism distinguishes us from Bacon who, like Descartes, believed that the path to genuine knowledge lay in first making a comprehensive survey of what is reliably known rather than merely believed.

Adding to the limits to confidence imposed by critical rationalism as opposed to constructivist rationalism, many transhumanists show a great appreciation for spontaneous order and its attendant unintended consequences, as outlined in my Order Without Orderers.6 Outcomes of people using technologies will never be quite as we might expect. Technology-in-use can differ drastically from technology-as-designed. When particle physicists starting using Tim Berners Lees hypertextual Web at the start of the 1990s, they had no idea what would quickly develop out of it. But these unexpected outcomes and spontaneous developments dont mean that we should stop trying to design better technologies and to improve our abilities at foreseeing ways in which they could go wrong.

The Body in Transhumanism

Ihde is right that the cyborg can be an idol. In his discussion of this idol, however, he never explicitly suggests that transhumanists idolize the cyborg. Thats just as well, since transhumanists generally look down on the Cyborg concept as primitive and unhelpful. It is the critics who try to force the square peg of transhumanist views of the body into the round hole of the cyborg. This most often takes the form of accusing us of seeking to mechanize the human body, or of fearing, hating, or despising our fleshiness, the fallacies of which I discussed in Beyond the Machine: Technology and Posthuman Freedom.7 A classic example of this straw man construction can be found in Erik Davis Techgnosis. Thankfully, Ihde does not repeat this error.

True transhumanism doesnt find the biological human body disgusting or frightening. It does find it to be a marvelous yet flawed piece of engineering, as expressed in Primo Posthuman.8 It could hardly be otherwise, given that it was designed by a blind watchmaker, as Richard Dawkins put it. True transhumanism does seek to enable each of us to alter and improve (by our own standards) the human body. It champions what I called morphological freedom in my 1993 paper, Technological Self-Transformation.

The Role of Forecasting

Idolatrous technofantasies arise again, according to Ihde In the same narratives concerning the human, the posthuman and the transhuman. Which narratives are these? Again, we are left without a referent. The point of his discussion of prediction is to repeat his point about unintended consequences and difficulties in knowing how technologies will turn out. In this section, Ihde does finally mention two people who might be called transhumanistsHans Moravec and Ray Kurzweilalthough Kurzweil definitely resists the label. Ihde calls them worshippers of the idol of prediction and asks if they have any credibility. Instead of addressing that, he makes some comments on unintended consequences that might arise from downloading the human mind into a computer.

Both Moravecs and Kurzweils forecasts of specific technological trends have turned out rather well so far. Of course it is easy to find lists of predictions from earlier forecasters that now, with hindsight, sound silly, and Ihde treats us to a few of them. Even there, and even with the assumption that accurate predicting is what matters in the whole transhuman/posthuman discussion, he fails to make a strong case for the futility or foolishness of predicting. He mentions an in-depth survey of predicted technologies from 1890 to 1940, noting that less than one-third of the 1500 predictions worked out well. He adds: Chiding me for pointing this out in Nature and claiming these are pretty good odds, my response is that 50% odds are normal for a penny toss, and these are less than that!?

The critics who chided Ihde for this are perfectly justified. He just digs himself deeper into the hole of error by bringing up the coin toss analogy. A coin has two sides, yielding two possibilities, so that the chance of a random prediction coming true is 50%. But technologies can develop in innumerable possible ways, not only because of future discoveries about that technology, but because of interactions with other technologies and because how technologies turn out usually depends heavily on how they are used. This error is especially odd considering how frequently Ihde flogs the dead horse of trade-offs and unintended consequences.

More importantly for these discussions of the transhuman and posthuman, it seems to me that Ihde doesnt understand futurology or forecasting. The purpose of thinking about the future is not to make impossibly accurate pinpoint predictions. Its to forecast possible futures so that we can prepare as well as possible for the upsides and downsidesso we can try to anticipate and improve on some of the trade-offs and side-effects and develop resilient responses, policies, and organizations. Rather than throwing up our hands in the face of an uncertain future, transhumanists and other futurists seek to better understand our options.

Ultimate skepticism concerning forecasting is not tenable, otherwise no one would ever venture to cross the road or save any money. Should we look at the uncertainty inherent in the future as an impenetrable black box? No. We need to distinguish different levels of uncertainty and then use the best available tools while developing better ones to make sense of possible outcomes. At the lowest level of uncertainty, there is only one possible outcome. In those situations, businesses use tools such as net present value.

Raise the level of uncertainty a bit and youre in a situation where there are several distinct possible futures, one of which will occur. In these situations, you can make good use of tools such as scenario planning, game theory, and decision-tree real-options valuation. At a higher level of uncertainty, we face a range of futures and must use additional tools such as system dynamics models. When uncertainty is at its highest and the range of possible outcomes is unbounded, we can only look to analogies and reference cases and try to devise resilient strategies and designs.9

Transhumanists are far from being dummies when it comes to looking ahead. But its true that many transhumanists are far from perfect in their approach to forecasting and foresight. My biggest complaint with many of my colleagues is that their vision is overly technocentric. Rather than The Idol of Prediction, a better critical construct would have been The Idol of Technocentrism. Not surprisingly, many transhumanists have a heavily technical background, especially in the computer and information sciences and the physical sciences. With my own background in economics, politics, philosophy, and psychology, I see a paucity of the social sciences among even sophisticated seers such as Ray Kurzweil, which I debated with him in 2002.10

None of Ihdes Idols apply to true transhumanism. But they do add up to a simple message: Peoples actions have unintended consequences, people are clueless about possible futures, and it is arrogant and hubristic to pursue fundamental improvements to the human condition. This ultimately pessimistic and existentially conservative message does indeed conflict directly with true transhumanism. Transhumanists do in fact understand unintended consequences and limits to our understanding, but they continue to strive for fundamental advances. I am wary of all isms, but these kinds of critiques of transhumanism spur me to renew my identification with that label even as I engage more deeply in cleaning up such misconceptions.


8. Vita-More. 1997, 2004.

10. Kurzweil and More, 2002.


Bacon, Francis, 1620, Novum Organum.

Clarke, Arthur C., Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination in Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973).

Courtney, Hugh, 2001, 20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World. Harvard Business School Press.

Davis, Erik, 2005, Techgnosis: Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information. Five Star.

Ihde, Don, 2008, Of Which Human Are We Post? The Global Spiral.

Kurzweil, Ray, 2006, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Penguin.

Kurzweil, Ray and Max More, 2002, Max More and Ray Kurzweil on the Singularity. KurzweilAI.net.

Mayr, Ernst: 1963, 1970, Population, Species, and Evolution. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

More, Max, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1998, Principles of Extropy

1990, 1994, 1996, Transhumanism: Toward a Futurist Philosophy. Extropy #6.

1991, Order Without Orderers, Extropy #7.

1993, Technological Self-Transformation: Expanding Personal Extropy. Extropy #10, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 15-24.

1994a, On Becoming Posthuman. Free Inquiry.

1994b, Pancritical Rationalism: An Extropic Metacontext for Memetic Progress.

1995, The Diachronic Self: Identity, Continuity, Transformation.

1997, Beyond the Machine: Technology and Posthuman Freedom. Paper in proceedings of Ars Electronica. (FleshFactor: Informationmaschine Mensch), Ars Electronica Center, Springer, Wien, New York, 1997.

1998, Virtue and Virtuality (Von erweiterten Sinnen zu Erfahrungsmaschinen) in Der Sinn der Sinne (Kunst und Austellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Gottingen.)

1999, Letter to Mother Nature (part of The Ultrahuman Revolution: Amendments to the Human Constitution.) Biotech Futures Conference, U.C. Berkeley.

2004a, The Proactionary Principle.

2004b, Superlongevity without Overpopulation, chapter in The Scientific Conquest of Death. (Immortality Institute.)

2005, How to Choose a Forecasting Method, ManyWorlds.

Vita-More, 1997. Primo Posthuman future Body Prototype http://www.natasha.cc/primo.htm and http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0405.html

Vita-More, 2004. The New [human] Genre Primo Posthuman. Delivered at Ciber@RT Conference, Bilbao, Spain April, 2004,

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IMMORTALITY REALLY? | Kabbalah Student – Billy Phillips

Posted: January 11, 2017 at 1:43 pm

The secret of immortality will not come from Ponce de Len who tried to discover the fountain of youth by sailing the seven seas in search of this mythological source of water; it will come from Moses de Len who discovered the Zohar after 1200 years of concealment.

The secret of biological immortal existence is hidden in the Zohar and revealed in Kabbalist Rav Bergs book entitled, Nano.

Heres one profound secret I can share. Scientists are suddenly looking for the secret to biological immortality. The subject of immortal existence and life extension has appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, its been written about in books and articles published on important websites featuring the latest discoveries from the world of physics and medical-science.

This subject matter, once tabooed by science, is now a hot topic and some scientists, like Ray Kurzweil, estimate biological immortal existence will be achieved by humankind within the next fifty years.

Heres some advice from Kabbalist Rav Berg. Stop looking for the secret of immortality.

It already exists.

Atoms are immortal and we are made of atoms.

Thats right, our atoms, the very building blocks of our being, are never-ending, eternal and immortal.

Atoms are the one part of the Universe that live forever.

Dr. Peter Douglas Ward

(Professor of Geological Science, University of Washington)

When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. Atoms, however, go on practically forever.

Bill Bryson

(A Short History of Everything)

Atoms do live essentially forever. The hydrogen in a glass of water is over 13 billion years old. Atoms are immortal in the sense that they outlive everything. Most of the atoms in the universe were made in the big bang. Ones heavier than helium were made inside stars.

Dr. Donald Brownlee

(Professor of Astronomy, University of Washington)

No living creature is immortal, but atoms never die. Instead, they exist ad infinitum as solitary atoms, or as components of a single molecule, or they shuttle between countless molecules over vast eons of time.

Professor Robert J. Brooker

Molecules can be converted and decomposed by chemical processes; but atoms are forever. In a chemical reaction, matterat the level of individual atomsis always accounted for.

The American Chemical Society

So whats the problem? Why are the graveyards overrun with bodies of loved ones and people of generations long past?

The problem and the cause of death lies within the space that comes in between our immortal atoms. This space breaks their bonds, causing the forms that atoms produce to disappear (death). You see, though atoms are immortal and forever, theforms that atoms produce are temporary. The forms die off, but the individual building blocks live on and on and on.

The key to immortal existence is not in learning how to keep at atom eternal. It already is. The key is understanding how to keep the same form (body) together forever. Because if the form remains, it will last forever because the very parts of the form are already immortal.

So the secret to biological immortality is about relationships and bonds between the immortal building blocks.

Which leads to the question: How do you keep the forms together?

We achieve that by preventingspacefrom coming in between our atoms. Space is what allows a picture puzzle to come apart and spread out in total chaos. Remove space and the puzzle comes together again.

Lets examine this idea of space a bit deeper.

Science is now catching up to Kabbalah by realizing that all reality is made up of consciousness. Even atoms are composed of particles or waves of consciousness. Einstein himself, was perplexed by the idea that an electron could be both a particle and a wave. But that this wave is actually a wave of consciousness, this truth has not yet been universally accepted or understood. Only a handful of physicists, albeit, the smartest ones of the twentieth century, were able to have the courage and insight to embrace this truth.

This is the missing puzzle piece in physics which will lead to a Grand Unified Theory.

The very founders of quantum physics, scientists like Sir Arthur Eddington, Max Planck and others, were convinced that consciousness was true reality and that all matter actually emerged from consciousness.

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.

Physicist Max Planck

The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal MindThe stuff of the world is mind-stuff

Physicist Sir Arthur Eddington

The universe looks more and more like a greatthoughtrather than a great machine.

Physicist Sir James Jeans

The physical universe is a great thought according to the Zohar. Its called the Thought of Creation, and it means the Divine Mind, the very Consciousness of the Creator, permeates all reality like waves upon the sea. This is exactly what the Zohar says! And this is exactly what science also tells us about the true nature of electrons, photons and all matter. Matter is not just made up of tiny subatomic particles like miniature ping pong balls in orbit. Matter also has profound wave-like properties that extend across the universe. Thats right, physics now tells us that all matter is also made up of waves. Electrons are waves. Photons are waves. And they have no idea why this is so, or what it means, or why those waves feel like solid matter according to our five senses.

Kabbalah does.

These waves are waves of consciousness. They are the brain waves of God Himself, bringing forth into existence the entire cosmos.

The only thing we human beings have to do to attain immortal existence and realize the full potential of the Thought of Creation which is only about infinite pleasure and paradise for mankind is to bring our own wave of consciousness to this world by building relationships with our fellow-man in this sea of humanity called planet earth.

Space is actually a form of consciousness. Space is the reason why our atoms stop bonding. Space is what separates them and what allows them to remain separated.

What kind of consciousness is space?


Ego is the culprit and killer of man.

As we transform selfish, egocentric consciousness into one that respects, cares for and embraces our friends and so-called enemies, building bonds with our fellow-man, thats when our eternal atoms will remain bonded together.

As our consciousness behaves, so behaves our atoms, and the state of the world.

Ego consciousness, which creates a space between us and the next person, automatically creates space between the atoms in our body, causing aging and decay. This is why Kabbalist Rav Berg says, Its all about consciousness.

This is what we have to realize.

The purpose of Kabbalah is to transform our consciousness and remove self-interest so that we can love forever and therefore live forever.

Its that simple.

But its not easy.

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Hate Speech on Campus | American Civil Liberties Union

Posted: January 10, 2017 at 2:53 am

In recent years, a rise in verbal abuse and violence directed at people of color, lesbians and gay men, and other historically persecuted groups has plagued the United States. Among the settings of these expressions of intolerance are college and university campuses, where bias incidents have occurred sporadically since the mid-1980s. Outrage, indignation and demands for change have greeted such incidents — understandably, given the lack of racial and social diversity among students, faculty and administrators on most campuses.

Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied. Since its founding in 1920, the ACLU has fought for the free expression of all ideas, popular or unpopular. That’s the constitutional mandate.

Where racist, sexist and homophobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech — not less — is the best revenge. This is particularly true at universities, whose mission is to facilitate learning through open debate and study, and to enlighten. Speech codes are not the way to go on campuses, where all views are entitled to be heard, explored, supported or refuted. Besides, when hate is out in the open, people can see the problem. Then they can organize effectively to counter bad attitudes, possibly change them, and forge solidarity against the forces of intolerance.

College administrators may find speech codes attractive as a quick fix, but as one critic put it: “Verbal purity is not social change.” Codes that punish bigoted speech treat only the symptom: The problem itself is bigotry. The ACLU believes that instead of opting for gestures that only appear to cure the disease, universities have to do the hard work of recruitment to increase faculty and student diversity; counseling to raise awareness about bigotry and its history, and changing curricula to institutionalize more inclusive approaches to all subject matter.

A: Free speech rights are indivisible. Restricting the speech of one group or individual jeopardizes everyone’s rights because the same laws or regulations used to silence bigots can be used to silence you. Conversely, laws that defend free speech for bigots can be used to defend the rights of civil rights workers, anti-war protesters, lesbian and gay activists and others fighting for justice. For example, in the 1949 case of Terminiello v. Chicago, the ACLU successfully defended an ex-Catholic priest who had delivered a racist and anti-semitic speech. The precedent set in that case became the basis for the ACLU’s successful defense of civil rights demonstrators in the 1960s and ’70s.

The indivisibility principle was also illustrated in the case of Neo-Nazis whose right to march in Skokie, Illinois in 1979 was successfully defended by the ACLU. At the time, then ACLU Executive Director Aryeh Neier, whose relatives died in Hitler’s concentration camps during World War II, commented: “Keeping a few Nazis off the streets of Skokie will serve Jews poorly if it means that the freedoms to speak, publish or assemble any place in the United States are thereby weakened.”

A: Not so. Only a handful of the several thousand cases litigated by the national ACLU and its affiliates every year involves offensive speech. Most of the litigation, advocacy and public education work we do preserves or advances the constitutional rights of ordinary people. But it’s important to understand that the fraction of our work that does involve people who’ve engaged in bigoted and hurtful speech is very important:

Defending First Amendment rights for the enemies of civil liberties and civil rights means defending it for you and me.

A: The U.S. Supreme Court did rule in 1942, in a case calledChaplinsky v. New Hampshire, that intimidating speech directed at a specific individual in a face-to-face confrontation amounts to “fighting words,” and that the person engaging in such speech can be punished if “by their very utterance [the words] inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.” Say, a white student stops a black student on campus and utters a racial slur. In that one-on-one confrontation, which could easily come to blows, the offending student could be disciplined under the “fighting words” doctrine for racial harassment.

Over the past 50 years, however, the Court hasn’t found the “fighting words” doctrine applicable in any of the hate speech cases that have come before it, since the incidents involved didn’t meet the narrow criteria stated above. Ignoring that history, the folks who advocate campus speech codes try to stretch the doctrine’s application to fit words or symbols that cause discomfort, offense or emotional pain.

A: Symbols of hate are constitutionally protected if they’re worn or displayed before a general audience in a public place — say, in a march or at a rally in a public park. But the First Amendment doesn’t protect the use of nonverbal symbols to encroach upon, or desecrate, private property, such as burning a cross on someone’s lawn or spray-painting a swastika on the wall of a synagogue or dorm.

In its 1992 decision inR.A.V. v. St. Paul, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a city ordinance that prohibited cross-burnings based on their symbolism, which the ordinance said makes many people feel “anger, alarm or resentment.” Instead of prosecuting the cross-burner for the content of his act, the city government could have rightfully tried him under criminal trespass and/or harassment laws.

The Supreme Court has ruled that symbolic expression, whether swastikas, burning crosses or, for that matter, peace signs, is protected by the First Amendment because it’s “closely akin to ‘pure speech.'” That phrase comes from a landmark 1969 decision in which the Court held that public school students could wear black armbands in school to protest the Vietnam War. And in another landmark ruling, in 1989, the Court upheld the right of an individual to burn the American flag in public as a symbolic expression of disagreement with government policies.

A: Historically, defamation laws or codes have proven ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst. For one thing, depending on how they’re interpreted and enforced, they can actually work against the interests of the people they were ostensibly created to protect. Why? Because the ultimate power to decide what speech is offensive and to whom rests with the authorities — the government or a college administration — not with those who are the alleged victims of hate speech.

In Great Britain, for example, a Racial Relations Act was adopted in 1965 to outlaw racist defamation. But throughout its existence, the Act has largely been used to persecute activists of color, trade unionists and anti-nuclear protesters, while the racists — often white members of Parliament — have gone unpunished.

Similarly, under a speech code in effect at the University of Michigan for 18 months, white students in 20 cases charged black students with offensive speech. One of the cases resulted in the punishment of a black student for using the term “white trash” in conversation with a white student. The code was struck down as unconstitutional in 1989 and, to date, the ACLU has brought successful legal challenges against speech codes at the Universities of Connecticut, Michigan and Wisconsin.

These examples demonstrate that speech codes don’t really serve the interests of persecuted groups. The First Amendment does. As one African American educator observed: “I have always felt as a minority person that we have to protect the rights of all because if we infringe on the rights of any persons, we’ll be next.”

A: Bigoted speech is symptomatic of a huge problem in our country; it is not the problem itself. Everybody, when they come to college, brings with them the values, biases and assumptions they learned while growing up in society, so it’s unrealistic to think that punishing speech is going to rid campuses of the attitudes that gave rise to the speech in the first place. Banning bigoted speech won’t end bigotry, even if it might chill some of the crudest expressions. The mindset that produced the speech lives on and may even reassert itself in more virulent forms.

Speech codes, by simply deterring students from saying out loud what they will continue to think in private, merely drive biases underground where they can’t be addressed. In 1990, when Brown University expelled a student for shouting racist epithets one night on the campus, the institution accomplished nothing in the way of exposing the bankruptcy of racist ideas.

A: Yes. The ACLU believes that hate speech stops being just speech and becomes conduct when it targets a particular individual, and when it forms a pattern of behavior that interferes with a student’s ability to exercise his or her right to participate fully in the life of the university.

The ACLU isn’t opposed to regulations that penalize acts of violence, harassment or intimidation, and invasions of privacy. On the contrary, we believe that kind of conduct should be punished. Furthermore, the ACLU recognizes that the mere presence of speech as one element in an act of violence, harassment, intimidation or privacy invasion doesn’t immunize that act from punishment. For example, threatening, bias-inspired phone calls to a student’s dorm room, or white students shouting racist epithets at a woman of color as they follow her across campus — these are clearly punishable acts.

Several universities have initiated policies that both support free speech and counter discriminatory conduct. Arizona State, for example, formed a “Campus Environment Team” that acts as an education, information and referral service. The team of specially trained faculty, students and administrators works to foster an environment in which discriminatory harassment is less likely to occur, while also safeguarding academic freedom and freedom of speech.

A: The ACLU believes that the best way to combat hate speech on campus is through an educational approach that includes counter-speech, workshops on bigotry and its role in American and world history, and real — not superficial — institutional change.

Universities are obligated to create an environment that fosters tolerance and mutual respect among members of the campus community, an environment in which all students can exercise their right to participate fully in campus life without being discriminated against. Campus administrators on the highest level should, therefore,

ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser stated, in a speech at the City College of New York: “There is no clash between the constitutional right of free speech and equality. Both are crucial to society. Universities ought to stop restricting speech and start teaching.”

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Empowerment Theory – Springer

Posted: January 8, 2017 at 7:56 pm

Alinsky, S. (1971). Rules for radicals NY: Vintage

Barker, R. G. (1960). Ecology and motivation. Nebraska Symposium on Motivation,8, 144

Berger, P. J., & Neuhaus, R. J. (1977). To empower people: The role of mediating structures in public policy. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

Brown, L. D. (1983). Organizing participatory research: Interfaces for joint inquiry and organizational change. Journal of Occupational Behavior, 4, 919

Checkoway, B. (1982). The empire strikes back: More lessons for health care consumers. Journal of Health Politics, Policy,and Law, 7, 111124

Checkoway, B., & Doyle, M. (1980). Community organizing lessons for health care consumers. Journal of Health Politics, Policy,and Law, 5,213226

Conger, J. A., & Kanungo, R. N. (1988). The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 13,471481

Cornell Empowerment Group. (1989). Empowerment and family support. Networking Bulletin, 1,123

Cottrell, L. S., Jr. (1983). The competent community. In R. Warren & L. Lyon (Eds.), New perspectives on the American community (pp. 398432). Homewood, IL: Dorsey

Craig, S. C., & Maggiotto, M. (1982). Measuring political efficacy. Political Methodology, 8, 85109

Cravens, R. B. (1981). Grassroots participation in community mental health. In W. Silverman (Ed.), Community mental health New York: Praeger

De Charms, R. (1968). Personal causation New York: Academic

Dougherty, D. (1988). Participation in community organizations: Effects on political efficacy, personal efficacy, and self-esteem Doctoral Dissertation, Boston University, Boston, MA

Fish, J. (1973). Black power/white control: The struggle of the Woodlawn Organization in Chicago Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Galaskiewicz, J. (1979). Exchange networks and community politics Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Gallant, R. V., Cohen, C., & Wolff, T. (1985). Change of older persons image, impact on public policy result from Highland Valley Empowerment Plan. Perspective on Aging, 14, 913

Gatchel, R. (1980). Perceived control: A review and evaluation of therapeutic application. In A. Baum & J. Singer (Eds.), Advances in environmental psychology (pp. 122). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Glass, D. C., & Singer, J. E. (1972). Urban stress: Experiments on noise and social stressors. New York: Academic

Heil, W. B. (1991, August). Re-reviewing participation in decision-making: Toward a multidimensional model Paper presented at the Ninety-Ninth Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, San Francisco, CA

Kieffer, C. H. (1984). Citizen empowerment: A developmental perspective. Prevention in Human Services, 3, 936. Labs, S. M., & Wurtele, S. K. (1986). Fetal health locus of control scale: Development and validation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,54, 814819

Langer, E. J. (1983). The Psychology of Control. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Lefcourt, H. (1976). Locus of control: Current trends in theory and research Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Levine, A. G. (1982). Love Canal: Science, politics, and people Lexington, MA: Lexington Books

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1986). But is that rigorous?: Trustworthiness and authenticity in naturalistic evaluation. In D. D. Williams (Ed.), Naturalistic evaluation: New directions for program evaluation (pp. 7384). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Maynard, J. (1986, May 11). The people of New Hampshire against the nuclear dump. New York Times Magazine, pp. 2022, 2425, 40

Mechanic, D. (1991, February). Adolescents at risk: New directions Paper presented at the Seventh Annual Conference on Health Policy, Cornell University Medical College

Minkler, M. (1990). Improving health through community organization. In K. Glanz, F. M. Lewis, & B. K. Rimer (Eds.), Health behavior and health education: Theory,research, and practice (pp. 257287). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Morrissey, J. P., Tausig, M., & Lindsey, M. L. (1986). Interorganizational networks in mental health systems: Assessing community support programs for the chronically mentally ill. In W. R. Scott & B. L. Black (Eds.), The organization of mental health services (pp. 197230). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Pivan, F. F., & Cloward, R. A. (1977). Poor peoples movements: Why they succeed, how they fail New York: Vintage Books

Rappaport, J. (1985). The power of empowerment language. Social Policy, 16, 1521

Rotter, J. B. (1966). Generalized experiences for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Psychological Monographs,80, 10141053

Stone, R. A., & Levine, A. G. (1985). Reactions to collective stress: Correlates of active citizen participation. Prevention in Human Services,4, 153177

Sue, S., & Zane, N. (1980). Learned helplessness theory and community psychology. In M. S. Gibbs, J. R. Lachenmeyer, & J. Sigal (Eds.), Community psychology: Theoretical and empirical approaches (pp. 121143). New York: Gardner

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Zimmerman, M. A. (1986). Citizen participation, perceived control, and psychological empowerment Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Golden ratio – Wikipedia

Posted: December 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm

In mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. The figure on the right illustrates the geometric relationship. Expressed algebraically, for quantities a and b with a>b>0,

where the Greek letter phi ( {displaystyle varphi } or {displaystyle phi } ) represents the golden ratio. Its value is:

The golden ratio is also called the golden mean or golden section (Latin: sectio aurea).[1][2][3] Other names include extreme and mean ratio,[4]medial section, divine proportion, divine section (Latin: sectio divina), golden proportion, golden cut,[5] and golden number.[6][7][8]

Some twentieth-century artists and architects, including Le Corbusier and Dal, have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratioespecially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratiobelieving this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing. The golden ratio appears in some patterns in nature, including the spiral arrangement of leaves and other plant parts.

Mathematicians since Euclid have studied the properties of the golden ratio, including its appearance in the dimensions of a regular pentagon and in a golden rectangle, which may be cut into a square and a smaller rectangle with the same aspect ratio. The golden ratio has also been used to analyze the proportions of natural objects as well as man-made systems such as financial markets, in some cases based on dubious fits to data.[9]

Two quantities a and b are said to be in the golden ratio if

One method for finding the value of is to start with the left fraction. Through simplifying the fraction and substituting in b/a = 1/,


Multiplying by gives

which can be rearranged to

Using the quadratic formula, two solutions are obtained:


Because is the ratio between positive quantities is necessarily positive:

This derivation can also be found with a compass-and-straightedge construction:

The golden ratio has been claimed to have held a special fascination for at least 2,400 years, though without reliable evidence.[11] According to Mario Livio:

Some of the greatest mathematical minds of all ages, from Pythagoras and Euclid in ancient Greece, through the medieval Italian mathematician Leonardo of Pisa and the Renaissance astronomer Johannes Kepler, to present-day scientific figures such as Oxford physicist Roger Penrose, have spent endless hours over this simple ratio and its properties. But the fascination with the Golden Ratio is not confined just to mathematicians. Biologists, artists, musicians, historians, architects, psychologists, and even mystics have pondered and debated the basis of its ubiquity and appeal. In fact, it is probably fair to say that the Golden Ratio has inspired thinkers of all disciplines like no other number in the history of mathematics.[12]

Ancient Greek mathematicians first studied what we now call the golden ratio because of its frequent appearance in geometry. The division of a line into “extreme and mean ratio” (the golden section) is important in the geometry of regular pentagrams and pentagons. Euclid’s Elements (Greek: ) provides the first known written definition of what is now called the golden ratio: “A straight line is said to have been cut in extreme and mean ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater to the lesser.”[13] Euclid explains a construction for cutting (sectioning) a line “in extreme and mean ratio”, i.e., the golden ratio.[14] Throughout the Elements, several propositions (theorems in modern terminology) and their proofs employ the golden ratio.[15]

The golden ratio is explored in Luca Pacioli’s book De divina proportione of 1509.

The first known approximation of the (inverse) golden ratio by a decimal fraction, stated as “about 0.6180340”, was written in 1597 by Michael Maestlin of the University of Tbingen in a letter to his former student Johannes Kepler.[16]

Since the 20th century, the golden ratio has been represented by the Greek letter (phi, after Phidias, a sculptor who is said to have employed it) or less commonly by (tau, the first letter of the ancient Greek root meaning cut).[1][17]

Timeline according to Priya Hemenway:[18]

De Divina Proportione, a three-volume work by Luca Pacioli, was published in 1509. Pacioli, a Franciscan friar, was known mostly as a mathematician, but he was also trained and keenly interested in art. De Divina Proportione explored the mathematics of the golden ratio. Though it is often said that Pacioli advocated the golden ratio’s application to yield pleasing, harmonious proportions, Livio points out that the interpretation has been traced to an error in 1799, and that Pacioli actually advocated the Vitruvian system of rational proportions.[1] Pacioli also saw Catholic religious significance in the ratio, which led to his work’s title. De Divina Proportione contains illustrations of regular solids by Leonardo da Vinci, Pacioli’s longtime friend and collaborator.

The Parthenon’s faade as well as elements of its faade and elsewhere are said by some to be circumscribed by golden rectangles.[25] Other scholars deny that the Greeks had any aesthetic association with golden ratio. For example, Midhat J. Gazal says, “It was not until Euclid, however, that the golden ratio’s mathematical properties were studied. In the Elements (308 BC) the Greek mathematician merely regarded that number as an interesting irrational number, in connection with the middle and extreme ratios. Its occurrence in regular pentagons and decagons was duly observed, as well as in the dodecahedron (a regular polyhedron whose twelve faces are regular pentagons). It is indeed exemplary that the great Euclid, contrary to generations of mystics who followed, would soberly treat that number for what it is, without attaching to it other than its factual properties.”[26] And Keith Devlin says, “Certainly, the oft repeated assertion that the Parthenon in Athens is based on the golden ratio is not supported by actual measurements. In fact, the entire story about the Greeks and golden ratio seems to be without foundation. The one thing we know for sure is that Euclid, in his famous textbook Elements, written around 300 BC, showed how to calculate its value.”[27] Later sources like Vitruvius exclusively discuss proportions that can be expressed in whole numbers, i.e. commensurate as opposed to irrational proportions.

A 2004 geometrical analysis of earlier research into the Great Mosque of Kairouan reveals a consistent application of the golden ratio throughout the design, according to Boussora and Mazouz.[28] They found ratios close to the golden ratio in the overall proportion of the plan and in the dimensioning of the prayer space, the court, and the minaret. The authors note, however, that the areas where ratios close to the golden ratio were found are not part of the original construction, and theorize that these elements were added in a reconstruction.

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier, famous for his contributions to the modern international style, centered his design philosophy on systems of harmony and proportion. Le Corbusier’s faith in the mathematical order of the universe was closely bound to the golden ratio and the Fibonacci series, which he described as “rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in their relations with one another. And these rhythms are at the very root of human activities. They resound in man by an organic inevitability, the same fine inevitability which causes the tracing out of the Golden Section by children, old men, savages and the learned.”[29]

Le Corbusier explicitly used the golden ratio in his Modulor system for the scale of architectural proportion. He saw this system as a continuation of the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”, the work of Leon Battista Alberti, and others who used the proportions of the human body to improve the appearance and function of architecture. In addition to the golden ratio, Le Corbusier based the system on human measurements, Fibonacci numbers, and the double unit. He took suggestion of the golden ratio in human proportions to an extreme: he sectioned his model human body’s height at the navel with the two sections in golden ratio, then subdivided those sections in golden ratio at the knees and throat; he used these golden ratio proportions in the Modulor system. Le Corbusier’s 1927 Villa Stein in Garches exemplified the Modulor system’s application. The villa’s rectangular ground plan, elevation, and inner structure closely approximate golden rectangles.[30]

Another Swiss architect, Mario Botta, bases many of his designs on geometric figures. Several private houses he designed in Switzerland are composed of squares and circles, cubes and cylinders. In a house he designed in Origlio, the golden ratio is the proportion between the central section and the side sections of the house.[31]

In a recent book, author Jason Elliot speculated that the golden ratio was used by the designers of the Naqsh-e Jahan Square and the adjacent Lotfollah mosque.[32]

Patrice Foutakis examined the measurements of 15 temples, 18 monumental tombs, 8 sarcophagi and 58 grave stelae from the fifth century BC to the second century AD. The temples were the main place for communication between the humans and Gods, while the tombs, sarcophagi and grave stelae were connected with the mortals’ passage from the material life to the eternal one. Should the golden ratio imply any divine, mystical or aesthetic property, then, according to the author, most of these constructions would be characterized by a golden-section rule. The result of this original research is that the golden ratio was totally absent from Greek architecture of the classical fifth century BC, and almost absent during the following six centuries. Four extremely rare and therefore valuable examples of golden-mean proportions were identified in an ancient tower in Modon (Peloponnese, Greece), in the Great Altar of Pergamon (Pergamon Museum, Berlin), in a grave stele from Edessa (Greece), and in a monumental tomb at Pella (Greece). Although these cases Foutakis claims to be evidence about a golden-section application in constructions of ancient Greece, he concludes that it was a marginal application indicating that the ancient Greeks did not pay any particular attention to the golden ratio as far as their architecture was concerned.[33]

The 16th-century philosopher Heinrich Agrippa drew a man over a pentagram inside a circle, implying a relationship to the golden ratio.[2]

Leonardo da Vinci’s illustrations of polyhedra in De divina proportione (On the Divine Proportion) and his views that some bodily proportions exhibit the golden ratio have led some scholars to speculate that he incorporated the golden ratio in his paintings.[34] But the suggestion that his Mona Lisa, for example, employs golden ratio proportions, is not supported by anything in Leonardo’s own writings.[35] Similarly, although the Vitruvian Man is often[36] shown in connection with the golden ratio, the proportions of the figure do not actually match it, and the text only mentions whole number ratios.[37]

Salvador Dal, influenced by the works of Matila Ghyka,[38] explicitly used the golden ratio in his masterpiece, The Sacrament of the Last Supper. The dimensions of the canvas are a golden rectangle. A huge dodecahedron, in perspective so that edges appear in golden ratio to one another, is suspended above and behind Jesus and dominates the composition.[1][39]

Mondrian has been said to have used the golden section extensively in his geometrical paintings,[40] though other experts (including critic Yve-Alain Bois) have disputed this claim.[1]

A statistical study on 565 works of art of different great painters, performed in 1999, found that these artists had not used the golden ratio in the size of their canvases. The study concluded that the average ratio of the two sides of the paintings studied is 1.34, with averages for individual artists ranging from 1.04 (Goya) to 1.46 (Bellini).[41] On the other hand, Pablo Tosto listed over 350 works by well-known artists, including more than 100 which have canvasses with golden rectangle and root-5 proportions, and others with proportions like root-2, 3, 4, and 6.[42]

According to Jan Tschichold,[44]

There was a time when deviations from the truly beautiful page proportions 2:3, 1:3, and the Golden Section were rare. Many books produced between 1550 and 1770 show these proportions exactly, to within half a millimeter.

Some sources claim that the golden ratio is commonly used in everyday design, for example in the shapes of postcards, playing cards, posters, wide-screen televisions, photographs, light switch plates and cars.[45][46][47][48][49]

Ern Lendvai analyzes Bla Bartk’s works as being based on two opposing systems, that of the golden ratio and the acoustic scale,[50] though other music scholars reject that analysis.[1] French composer Erik Satie used the golden ratio in several of his pieces, including Sonneries de la Rose+Croix. The golden ratio is also apparent in the organization of the sections in the music of Debussy’s Reflets dans l’eau (Reflections in Water), from Images (1st series, 1905), in which “the sequence of keys is marked out by the intervals 34, 21, 13 and 8, and the main climax sits at the phi position.”[51]

The musicologist Roy Howat has observed that the formal boundaries of La Mer correspond exactly to the golden section.[52] Trezise finds the intrinsic evidence “remarkable,” but cautions that no written or reported evidence suggests that Debussy consciously sought such proportions.[53]

Pearl Drums positions the air vents on its Masters Premium models based on the golden ratio. The company claims that this arrangement improves bass response and has applied for a patent on this innovation.[54]

Though Heinz Bohlen proposed the non-octave-repeating 833 cents scale based on combination tones, the tuning features relations based on the golden ratio. As a musical interval the ratio 1.618… is 833.090… cents (Play(helpinfo)).[55]

Adolf Zeising, whose main interests were mathematics and philosophy, found the golden ratio expressed in the arrangement of parts such as leaves and branches along the stems of plants and of veins in leaves. He extended his research to the skeletons of animals and the branchings of their veins and nerves, to the proportions of chemical compounds and the geometry of crystals, even to the use of proportion in artistic endeavors. In these patterns in nature he saw the golden ratio operating as a universal law.[56][57] In connection with his scheme for golden-ratio-based human body proportions, Zeising wrote in 1854 of a universal law “in which is contained the ground-principle of all formative striving for beauty and completeness in the realms of both nature and art, and which permeates, as a paramount spiritual ideal, all structures, forms and proportions, whether cosmic or individual, organic or inorganic, acoustic or optical; which finds its fullest realization, however, in the human form.”[58]

In 2010, the journal Science reported that the golden ratio is present at the atomic scale in the magnetic resonance of spins in cobalt niobate crystals.[59]

Since 1991, several researchers have proposed connections between the golden ratio and human genome DNA.[60][61][62]

However, some have argued that many apparent manifestations of the golden ratio in nature, especially in regard to animal dimensions, are fictitious.[63]

The golden ratio is key to the golden section search.

Studies by psychologists, starting with Fechner, have been devised to test the idea that the golden ratio plays a role in human perception of beauty. While Fechner found a preference for rectangle ratios centered on the golden ratio, later attempts to carefully test such a hypothesis have been, at best, inconclusive.[1][64]

The golden ratio is an irrational number. Below are two short proofs of irrationality:

Recall that:

If we call the whole n and the longer part m, then the second statement above becomes

or, algebraically

To say that is rational means that is a fraction n/m where n and m are integers. We may take n/m to be in lowest terms and n and m to be positive. But if n/m is in lowest terms, then the identity labeled (*) above says m/(nm) is in still lower terms. That is a contradiction that follows from the assumption that is rational.

Another short proofperhaps more commonly knownof the irrationality of the golden ratio makes use of the closure of rational numbers under addition and multiplication. If 1 + 5 2 {displaystyle textstyle {frac {1+{sqrt {5}}}{2}}} is rational, then 2 ( 1 + 5 2 ) 1 = 5 {displaystyle textstyle 2left({frac {1+{sqrt {5}}}{2}}right)-1={sqrt {5}}} is also rational, which is a contradiction if it is already known that the square root of a non-square natural number is irrational.

The golden ratio is also an algebraic number and even an algebraic integer. It has minimal polynomial

Having degree 2, this polynomial actually has two roots, the other being the golden ratio conjugate.

The conjugate root to the minimal polynomial x2 – x – 1 is

The absolute value of this quantity ( 0.618) corresponds to the length ratio taken in reverse order (shorter segment length over longer segment length, b/a), and is sometimes referred to as the golden ratio conjugate.[10] It is denoted here by the capital Phi ( {displaystyle Phi } ):

Alternatively, {displaystyle Phi } can be expressed as

This illustrates the unique property of the golden ratio among positive numbers, that

or its inverse:

This means 0.61803…:1 = 1:1.61803….

The formula = 1 + 1/ can be expanded recursively to obtain a continued fraction for the golden ratio:[65]

and its reciprocal:

The convergents of these continued fractions (1/1, 2/1, 3/2, 5/3, 8/5, 13/8, …, or 1/1, 1/2, 2/3, 3/5, 5/8, 8/13, …) are ratios of successive Fibonacci numbers.

The equation 2 = 1 + likewise produces the continued square root, or infinite surd, form:

An infinite series can be derived to express phi:[66]


These correspond to the fact that the length of the diagonal of a regular pentagon is times the length of its side, and similar relations in a pentagram.

The number turns up frequently in geometry, particularly in figures with pentagonal symmetry. The length of a regular pentagon’s diagonal is times its side. The vertices of a regular icosahedron are those of three mutually orthogonal golden rectangles.

There is no known general algorithm to arrange a given number of nodes evenly on a sphere, for any of several definitions of even distribution (see, for example, Thomson problem). However, a useful approximation results from dividing the sphere into parallel bands of equal surface area and placing one node in each band at longitudes spaced by a golden section of the circle, i.e. 360/ 222.5. This method was used to arrange the 1500 mirrors of the student-participatory satellite Starshine-3.[67]

Application examples you can see in the articles Pentagon with a given side length, Decagon with given circumcircle and Decagon with a given side length.

The both above displayed different algorithms produce geometric constructions that divides a line segment into two line segments where the ratio of the longer to the shorter line segment is the golden ratio.

The golden triangle can be characterized as an isosceles triangle ABC with the property that bisecting the angle C produces a new triangle CXB which is a similar triangle to the original.

If angle BCX = , then XCA = because of the bisection, and CAB = because of the similar triangles; ABC = 2 from the original isosceles symmetry, and BXC = 2 by similarity. The angles in a triangle add up to 180, so 5 = 180, giving = 36. So the angles of the golden triangle are thus 36-72-72. The angles of the remaining obtuse isosceles triangle AXC (sometimes called the golden gnomon) are 36-36-108.

Suppose XB has length 1, and we call BC length . Because of the isosceles triangles XC=XA and BC=XC, so these are also length. Length AC=AB, therefore equals +1. But triangle ABC is similar to triangle CXB, so AC/BC=BC/BX, AC/=/1, and so AC also equals 2. Thus 2 =+1, confirming that is indeed the golden ratio.

Similarly, the ratio of the area of the larger triangle AXC to the smaller CXB is equal to , while the inverse ratio is1.

In a regular pentagon the ratio between a side and a diagonal is {displaystyle Phi } (i.e. 1/), while intersecting diagonals section each other in the golden ratio.[8]

George Odom has given a remarkably simple construction for involving an equilateral triangle: if an equilateral triangle is inscribed in a circle and the line segment joining the midpoints of two sides is produced to intersect the circle in either of two points, then these three points are in golden proportion. This result is a straightforward consequence of the intersecting chords theorem and can be used to construct a regular pentagon, a construction that attracted the attention of the noted Canadian geometer H. S. M. Coxeter who published it in Odom’s name as a diagram in the American Mathematical Monthly accompanied by the single word “Behold!” [68]

The golden ratio plays an important role in the geometry of pentagrams. Each intersection of edges sections other edges in the golden ratio. Also, the ratio of the length of the shorter segment to the segment bounded by the two intersecting edges (a side of the pentagon in the pentagram’s center) is , as the four-color illustration shows.

The pentagram includes ten isosceles triangles: five acute and five obtuse isosceles triangles. In all of them, the ratio of the longer side to the shorter side is . The acute triangles are golden triangles. The obtuse isosceles triangles are golden gnomons.

The golden ratio properties of a regular pentagon can be confirmed by applying Ptolemy’s theorem to the quadrilateral formed by removing one of its vertices. If the quadrilateral’s long edge and diagonals are b, and short edges are a, then Ptolemy’s theorem gives b2=a2+ab which yields

Consider a triangle with sides of lengths a, b, and c in decreasing order. Define the “scalenity” of the triangle to be the smaller of the two ratios a/b and b/c. The scalenity is always less than and can be made as close as desired to .[69]

If the side lengths of a triangle form a geometric progression and are in the ratio 1: r: r2, where r is the common ratio, then r must lie in the range 1 1. A triangle whose sides are in the ratio 1: : is a right triangle (because 1 + = 2) known as a Kepler triangle.[70]

A golden rhombus is a rhombus whose diagonals are in the golden ratio. The rhombic triacontahedron is a convex polytope that has a very special property: all of its faces are golden rhombi. In the rhombic triacontahedron the dihedral angle between any two adjacent rhombi is 144, which is twice the isosceles angle of a golden triangle and four times its most acute angle.[71]

The mathematics of the golden ratio and of the Fibonacci sequence are intimately interconnected. The Fibonacci sequence is:

The closed-form expression for the Fibonacci sequence involves the golden ratio:

The golden ratio is the limit of the ratios of successive terms of the Fibonacci sequence (or any Fibonacci-like sequence), as originally shown by Kepler:[20]

Therefore, if a Fibonacci number is divided by its immediate predecessor in the sequence, the quotient approximates ; e.g., 987/6101.6180327868852. These approximations are alternately lower and higher than , and converge on as the Fibonacci numbers increase, and:

More generally:

where above, the ratios of consecutive terms of the Fibonacci sequence, is a case when a = 1 {displaystyle a=1} .

Furthermore, the successive powers of obey the Fibonacci recurrence:

This identity allows any polynomial in to be reduced to a linear expression. For example:

The reduction to a linear expression can be accomplished in one step by using the relationship

where F k {displaystyle F_{k}} is the kth Fibonacci number.

However, this is no special property of , because polynomials in any solution x to a quadratic equation can be reduced in an analogous manner, by applying:

for given coefficients a, b such that x satisfies the equation. Even more generally, any rational function (with rational coefficients) of the root of an irreducible nth-degree polynomial over the rationals can be reduced to a polynomial of degree n 1. Phrased in terms of field theory, if is a root of an irreducible nth-degree polynomial, then Q ( ) {displaystyle mathbb {Q} (alpha )} has degree n over Q {displaystyle mathbb {Q} } , with basis { 1 , , , n 1 } {displaystyle {1,alpha ,dots ,alpha ^{n-1}}} .

The golden ratio and inverse golden ratio = ( 1 5 ) / 2 {displaystyle varphi _{pm }=(1pm {sqrt {5}})/2} have a set of symmetries that preserve and interrelate them. They are both preserved by the fractional linear transformations x , 1 / ( 1 x ) , ( x 1 ) / x , {displaystyle x,1/(1-x),(x-1)/x,} this fact corresponds to the identity and the definition quadratic equation. Further, they are interchanged by the three maps 1 / x , 1 x , x / ( x 1 ) {displaystyle 1/x,1-x,x/(x-1)} they are reciprocals, symmetric about 1 / 2 {displaystyle 1/2} , and (projectively) symmetric about 2.

More deeply, these maps form a subgroup of the modular group PSL ( 2 , Z ) {displaystyle operatorname {PSL} (2,mathbf {Z} )} isomorphic to the symmetric group on 3 letters, S 3 , {displaystyle S_{3},} corresponding to the stabilizer of the set { 0 , 1 , } {displaystyle {0,1,infty }} of 3 standard points on the projective line, and the symmetries correspond to the quotient map S 3 S 2 {displaystyle S_{3}to S_{2}} the subgroup C 3

The golden ratio has the simplest expression (and slowest convergence) as a continued fraction expansion of any irrational number (see Alternate forms above). It is, for that reason, one of the worst cases of Lagrange’s approximation theorem and it is an extremal case of the Hurwitz inequality for Diophantine approximations. This may be why angles close to the golden ratio often show up in phyllotaxis (the growth of plants).[72]

The defining quadratic polynomial and the conjugate relationship lead to decimal values that have their fractional part in common with :

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Golden ratio – Wikipedia

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Beyond Automation – hbr.org

Posted: December 25, 2016 at 10:55 pm

Idea in Brief The Threat

Automation has traditionally displaced workers, forcing them onto higher ground that machines have not yet claimed. Today, as artificial intelligence encroaches on knowledge work, it can be hard to see how humans will remain employed in large numbers.

The outlook is grim if computers continue to chip away relentlessly at the tasks currently performed by well-educated people. But if we reframe the use of machines as augmentation, human work can flourish and accomplish what was never before possible.

Some knowledge workers will step up to even higher levels of cognition; others will step aside and draw on forms of intelligence that machines lack. Some will step in, monitoring and adjusting computers decision making; others will step narrowly into highly specialized realms of expertise. Inevitably, some will step forward by creating next-generation machines and finding new ways for them to augment human strengths.

After hearing of a recent Oxford University study on advancing automation and its potential to displace workers, Yuh-Mei Hutt, of Tallahassee, Florida, wrote, The idea that half of todays jobs may vanish has changed my view of my childrens future. Hutt was reacting not only as a mother; she heads a business and occasionally blogs about emerging technologies. Familiar as she is with the upside of computerization, the downside looms large. How will they compete against AI? she asked. How will they compete against a much older and experienced workforce vying for even fewer positions?

Suddenly, it seems, people in all walks of life are becoming very concerned about advancing automation. And they should be: Unless we find as many tasks to give humans as we find to take away from them, all the social and psychological ills of joblessness will grow, from economic recession to youth unemployment to individual crises of identity. Thats especially true now that automation is coming to knowledge work, in the form of artificial intelligence. Knowledge workwhich well define loosely as work that is more mental than manual, involves consequential decision making, and has traditionally required a college educationaccounts for a large proportion of jobs in todays mature economies. It is the high ground to which humanity has retreated as machines have taken over less cognitively challenging work. But in the very foreseeable future, as the Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner says, many of the things executives do today will be automated.

What if we were to reframe the situation? What if, rather than asking the traditional questionWhat tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done more cheaply and rapidly by machines?we ask a new one: What new feats might people achieve if they had better thinking machines to assist them? Instead of seeing work as a zero-sum game with machines taking an ever greater share, we might see growing possibilities for employment. We could reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation.

The two of us have been looking at cases in which knowledge workers collaborate with machines to do things that neither could do well on their own. And as automation makes greater incursions into their workplaces, these people respond with a surprisingly broad repertoire of moves. Conventional wisdom is that as machines threaten their livelihood, humans must invest in ever higher levels of formal education to keep ahead. In truth, as we will discuss below, smart people are taking five approaches to making their peace with smart machines.

David Autor, an economist at MIT who closely tracks the effects of automation on labor markets, recently complained that journalists and expert commentators overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for skilled labor. He pointed to the immense challenge of applying machines to any tasks that call for flexibility, judgment, or common sense, and then pushed his point further. Tasks that cannot be substituted by computerization are generally complemented by it, he wrote. This point is as fundamental as it is overlooked.

A search for the complementarities to which Autor was referring is at the heart of what we call an augmentation strategy. It stands in stark contrast to the automation strategies that efficiency-minded enterprises have pursued in the past. Automation starts with a baseline of what people do in a given job and subtracts from that. It deploys computers to chip away at the tasks humans perform as soon as those tasks can be codified. Aiming for increased automation promises cost savings but limits us to thinking within the parameters of work that is being accomplished today.

Smart machines can be our partners and collaborators in creative problem solving.

Augmentation, in contrast, means starting with what humans do today and figuring out how that work could be deepened rather than diminished by a greater use of machines. Some thoughtful knowledge workers see this clearly. Camille Nicita, for example, is the CEO of Gongos, a company in metropolitan Detroit that helps clients gain consumer insightsa line of work that some would say is under threat as big data reveals all about buying behavior. Nicita concedes that sophisticated decision analytics based on large data sets will uncover new and important insights. But, she says, that will give her people the opportunity to go deeper and offer clients context, humanization, and the why behind big data. Her shop will increasingly go beyond analysis and translate that data in a way that informs business decisions through synthesis and the power of great narrative. Fortunately, computers arent very good at that sort of thing.

Intelligent machines, Nicita thinksand this is the core belief of an augmentation strategydo not usher people out the door, much less relegate them to doing the bidding of robot overlords. In some cases these machines will allow us to take on tasks that are superiormore sophisticated, more fulfilling, better suited to our strengthsto anything we have given up. In other cases the tasks will simply be different from anything computers can do well. In almost all situations, however, they will be less codified and structured; otherwise computers would already have taken them over.

We propose a change in mindset, on the part of both workers and providers of work, that will lead to different outcomesa change from pursuing automation to promoting augmentation. This seemingly simple terminological shift will have deep implications for how organizations are managed and how individuals strive to succeed. Knowledge workers will come to see smart machines as partners and collaborators in creative problem solving.

This new mindset could change the future.

Lets assume that computers are going to make their mark in your line of work. Indeed, lets posit that software will soon perform most of the cognitive heavy lifting you do in your job and, as far as the essential day-to-day operation of the enterprise is concerned, make decisions as good as (probably better than) those made by 90% of the people who currently hold it. What should your strategy be to remain gainfully employed? From an augmentation perspective, people might renegotiate their relationship to machines and realign their contributions in five ways.

Your best strategy may be to head for still higher intellectual ground. There will always be jobs for people who are capable of more big-picture thinking and a higher level of abstraction than computers are. In essence this is the same advice that has always been offered and taken as automation has encroached on human work: Let the machine do the things that are beneath you, and take the opportunity to engage with higher-order concerns.

Niven Narain, a cancer researcher, provides a great example. In 2005 he cofounded Berg, a start-up in Framingham, Massachusetts, to apply artificial intelligence to the discovery of new drugs. Bergs facility has high-throughput mass spectrometers that run around the clock and produce trillions of data points from their analysis of blood and tissue, along with powerful computers that look for patterns suggesting that certain molecules could be effective. The last thing you want to do now, Narain told a reporter in March 2015, is have a hundred biochemistsgoing through this data and saying, Oh, I kind of like this one over here. But he also employs a hundred biochemists. Their objective is not to crunch all those numbers and produce a hypothesis about a certain molecules potential. Rather, they pick up at the point where the math leaves off, the machine has produced a hypothesis, and the investigation of its viability begins.

Narain stepped up by seeing an opportunity to develop drugs in a new way. That takes lots of experience, insight, and the ability to understand quickly how the world is changing. Likewise, one interpretation of the success of todays ultrarich Wall Street investment bankers and hedge fund titans is that they have stepped up above automated trading and portfolio management systems.

If stepping up is your chosen approach, you will probably need a long education. A masters degree or a doctorate will serve you well as a job applicant. Once inside an organization, your objective must be to stay broadly informed and creative enough to be part of its ongoing innovation and strategy efforts. Ideally youll aspire to a senior management role and thus seize the opportunities you identify. Listen to Barney Harford, the CEO of Orbitza business that has done more than most to eliminate knowledge worker jobs. To hire for the tasks he still requires people to do, Harford looks for T-shaped individuals. Orbitz needs people who can go really deep in their particular area of expertise, he says, and also go really broad and have that kind of curiosity about the overall organization and how their particular piece of the pie fits into it. Thats good guidance for any knowledge worker who wants to step up: Start thinking more syntheticallyin the old sense of that term. Find ways to rely on machines to do your intellectual spadework, without losing knowledge of how they do it. Harford has done that by applying machine learning to the generation of algorithms that match customers with the travel experiences they desire.

Stepping up may be an option for only a small minority of the labor force. But a lot of brain work is equally valuable and also cannot be codified. Stepping aside means using mental strengths that arent about purely rational cognition but draw on what the psychologist Howard Gardner has called our multiple intelligences. You might focus on the interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligencesknowing how to work well with other people and understanding your own interests, goals, and strengths.

The legendary thoroughbred trainer D. Wayne Lukas cant articulate exactly how he manages to see the potential in a yearling. He just does. Apples revered designer Jonathan Ive cant download his taste to a computer. Ricky Gervais makes people laugh at material a machine would never dream up. Do they all use computers in their daily work lives? Unquestionably. But their genius has been to discover the ineffable strengths they possess and to spend as much time as possible putting them to work. Machines can perform numerous ancillary tasks that would otherwise encroach on the ability of these professionals to do what they do best.

We dont want to create the impression that stepping aside is purely for artists. Senior lawyers, for example, are thoroughly versed in the law but are rarely their firms deep-dive experts on all its fine points. They devote much of their energy to winning new work (usually the chief reason they get promoted) and acting as wise counselors to their clients. With machines digesting legal documents and suggesting courses of action and arguments, senior lawyers will have more capacity to do the rest of their job well. The same is true for many other professionals, such as senior accountants, architects, investment bankers, and consultants.

Take the realm of elder care, in which robotics manufacturers see great potential for automation. This isnt often treated as a nuanced or a particularly intellectual line of human work. We were struck, therefore, by a recent essay by the teacher, coach, and blogger Heather Plett. She wrote of her mothers palliative care provider, She was holding space for us, and explained: What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey theyre on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

True, hospice care is an extreme example of a situation requiring the human touch. But empathy is valuable in any setting that has customers, coworkers, and owners.

If stepping aside is your strategy, you need to focus on your uncodifiable strengths, first discovering them and then diligently working to heighten them. In the process you should identify other masters of the tacit trade youre pursuing and find ways to work with them, whether as collaborator or apprentice. You may have to develop a greater respect for the intelligences you have beyond IQ, which decades of schooling might well have devalued. These, too, can be deliberately honedthey are no more or less God-given than your capacity for calculus.

Back in 1967, having witnessed the first attempts to automate knowledge work, Peter Drucker declared of the computer: Its a total moron. Its a lot less moronic now, but its relentless logic still occasionally arrives at decisions whose improvement wouldnt require a human genius.

Perhaps you saw a 2014 story in the New York Times about a man who had just changed jobs and applied to refinance his mortgage. Even though hed had a steady government job for eight years and a steady teaching job for more than 20 years before that, he was turned down for the loan. The automated system that evaluated his application recognized that the projected payments were well within his income level, but it was smart enough to seize on a risk marker: His new career would involve a great deal more variation and uncertainty in earnings.

Or maybe that system wasnt so smart. The man was Ben Bernanke, a former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who had just signed a book contract for more than a million dollars and was headed for a lucrative stint on the lecture circuit. This is a prime example of why, when computers make decisions, we will always need people who can step in and save us from their worst tendencies.

A lot of brain workincluding empathycannot be codified.

Those capable of stepping in know how to monitor and modify the work of computers. Taxes may increasingly be done by computer, but smart accountants look out for the mistakes that automated programsand the programs human usersoften make. Ad buying in digital marketing is almost exclusively automated these days, but only people can say when some programmatic buy would actually hurt the brand and how the logic behind it might be tuned.

Here you might ask, Just who is augmenting whom (or what) in this situation? Its a good moment to emphasize that in an augmentation environment, support is mutual. The human ensures that the computer is doing a good job and makes it better. This is the point being made by all those people who encourage more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education. They envision a work world largely made up of stepping-in positions. But if this is your strategy, youll also need to develop your powers of observation, translation, and human connection.

This approach involves finding a specialty within your profession that wouldnt be economical to automate. In Boston, near the headquarters of Dunkin Donuts, a reporter recently peered into the secret world of the Dunkin Donuts franchise kings. One of them, Gary Joyal, makes a good living (if his Rolls-Royce is any indication) by connecting buyers and sellers of Dunkin Donuts franchises. As the Boston Globe put it, Joyal uses his encyclopedic knowledge of franchiseesand often their family situations, income portfolios, and estate plansto make himself an indispensable player for buyers and sellers alike. So far he has helped to broker half a billion dollars worth of deals.

Could Joyals encyclopedic knowledge be encoded in software? Probably. But no one would make enough doing so to put a Rolls in the driveway. Its just too small a category. The same is true of Claire Bustarrets work. Johns Hopkins Magazine reports that Bustarret has made a career out of knowing paper like other French people know wine. Her ability to determine from a sheets texture, feel, and fibers when and where the paper was made is extremely valuable to historians and art authenticators. Maybe what she knows could be put in a database, and her analytical techniques could be automated. But in the meantime, she would have learned more.

Those who step narrowly find such niches and burrow deep inside them. They are hedgehogs to the stepping-up foxes among us. Although most of them have the benefit of a formal education, the expertise that fuels their earning power is gained through on-the-job trainingand the discipline of focus. If this is your strategy, start making a name for yourself as the person who goes a mile deep on a subject an inch wide. That wont mean you cant also have other interests, but professionally youll have a very distinct brand. How might machines augment you? Youll build your own databases and routines for keeping current, and connect with systems that combine your very specialized output with that of others.

Finally, stepping forward means constructing the next generation of computing and AI tools. Its still true that behind every great machine is a personin fact, many people. Someone decides that the Dunkin Franchise Optimizer is a bad investment, or that the application of AI to cancer drug discovery is a good one. Someone has to build the next great automated insurance-underwriting solution. Someone intuits the human need for a better system; someone identifies the part of it that can be codified; someone writes the code; and someone designs the conditions under which it will be applied.

Clearly this is a realm in which knowledge workers need strong skills in computer science, artificial intelligence, and analytics. In his book Data-ism, Steve Lohr offers stories of some of the people doing this work. For example, at the E. & J. Gallo Winery, an executive named Nick Dokoozlian teams up with Hendrik Hamann, a member of IBMs research staff, to find a way to harness the data required for precision agriculture at scale. In other words, they want to automate the painstaking craft of giving each grapevine exactly the care and feeding it needs to thrive. This isnt amateur hour. Hamann is a physicist with a thorough knowledge of IBMs prior application of networked sensors. Dokoozlian earned his doctorate in plant physiology at what Lohr informs us is the MIT of wine sciencethe University of California at Davisand then taught there for 15 years. Were tempted to say that this team knows wine the way some French people know paper.

Stepping forward means bringing about machines next level of encroachment, but it involves work that is itself highly augmented by software. A glance at Hamanns LinkedIn page is sufficient to make the point: Hes been endorsed by contacts for his expert use of simulations, algorithms, machine learning, mathematical modeling, and more. But spotting the right next opportunity for automation requires much more than technical chops. If this is your strategy, youll reach the top of your field if you can also think outside the box, perceive where todays computers fall short, and envision tools that dont yet exist. Someday, perhaps, even a lot of software development will be automated; but as Bill Gates recently observed, programming is safe for now.

Our conversations to date with professionals in a wide range of fieldsradiologists, financial advisers, teachers, architects, journalists, lawyers, accountants, marketers, and other experts of many kindssuggest that whatever the field, any of the five steps weve just laid out is possible. Not all of them are right for a given individual, but if you can figure out which one is right for you, youll be on your way to an augmentation strategy.

You might not get very far, however, if employers in your field dont buy in to augmentation. The world suffers from an automation mindset today, after all, because businesses have taken us down that path. Managers are always acutely aware of the downside of human employeesor, to use the technologists favored dysphemism for them, wetware. Henry Ford famously said, Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?

For augmentation to work, employers must be convinced that the combination of humans and computers is better than either working alone. That realization will dawn as it becomes increasingly clear that enterprise success depends much more on constant innovation than on cost efficiency. Employers have tended to see machines and people as substitute goods: If one is more expensive, it makes sense to swap in the other. But that makes sense only under static conditions, when we can safely assume that tomorrows tasks will be the same as todays.

Yuh-Mei Hutt told us that in her small business (Golden Lighting, a manufacturer of residential fixtures), automation has made operations much more efficient. But that means profitability depends now more than ever on the creativity of her people. Her designers need to know about trends in the interior design world and in lighting technology and must find fresh ways to pull them together. Her salespeople rely on CRM software, but their edge comes from how well they connect in person with retail buyers.

In an era of innovation, the emphasis has to be on the upside of people. They will always be the source of next-generation ideas and the element of operations that is hardest for competitors to replicate. (If you think employees today lack loyalty, you havent noticed how fast software takes up with your rivals.) Yes, people are variable and unpredictable; capable of selfishness, boredom, and dishonesty; hard to teach and quick to tireall things that robots are not. But with the proper augmentation, you can get the most out of the positive qualities on which they also hold a monopoly. As computerization turns everything that can be programmed into table stakes, those are the only qualities that will set you apart.

To be sure, many of the things knowledge workers do today will soon be automated. For example, the future role of humans in financial advising isnt fully clear, but its unlikely that those who remain in the field will have as their primary role recommending an optimal portfolio of stocks and bonds. In a recent conversation, one financial adviser seemed worried: Our advice to clients isnt fully automated yet, he said, but its feeling more and more robotic. My comments to clients are increasingly supposed to follow a script, and we are strongly encouraged to move clients into the use of these online tools. He expressed his biggest fear outright: Im thinking that over time they will phase us out altogether. But the next words out of his mouth more than hinted at his salvation: Reading scripts is obviously something a computer can do; convincing a client to invest more money requires some more skills. Im already often more of a psychiatrist than a stockbroker.

Thats not a step down. Its at least a step aside, and probably a step up. The adviser and his firm need only to see it that way and then build on it. For the foreseeable future, prompting savers and investors to make wiser financial choices will not be an automated task.

The strategy that will work in the long term, for employers and the employed, is to view smart machines as our partners and collaborators in knowledge work. By emphasizing augmentation, we can remove the threat of automation and turn the race with the machine into a relay rather than a dash. Those who are able to smoothly transfer the baton to and from a computer will be the winners.

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Beyond Automation – hbr.org

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rationalism facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com …

Posted: December 22, 2016 at 12:50 pm






Rationalism comes in various versions and makes wider or narrower claims. The idea underlying most versions is that reason is the most characteristic faculty of Homo sapiens. Appeal to reason is part of traditional wisdom, yet traditional (ancient Greek) rationalism includes an out of hand dismissal of traditional wisdom. The modern version of this dismissal is the radical demand for starting afresh (Enlightenment radicalism) and admitting only ideas that are proven, absolutely certain, and fully justified by rigorous proof. Science begins with rejecting all doubtful ideas. Francis Bacon initiated the idea that traditional unfounded views are the causes of all error; Ren Descartes tried to ignore all doubtful ideas and start afresh from nothing. David Hume began his investigations in efforts to delineate all that is certain while ignoring all else; he and many others, from Denis Diderot to Pierre Simon de Laplace, took it for granted that Isaac Newtons success was due to his adherence to Bacons advice. Auguste Comte and T. H. Huxley took it for granted that other fields will be as successful if they only jettison tradition more fully; Ludwig Wittgenstein went further and said only scientific assertions are grammatical (positivism, scientism).

Yet what proof is no one knew. Mathematics was the paradigm of proof, and the success of physics was largely ascribed to its use of mathematical methods, a practice for all to emulate. What is that method, and how can it be applied to the social domain? How does the relinquishing of tradition help word theories mathematically? This was unclear even after the discipline of statistics was developed enough to become applicable to some social studies (as in the work of Adolphe Qutelet, 1796-1874). Yet clearly as usefulness gives rational thought its initial (even if not final) worth, at least the rationality of action is obvious: its goal-directedness. Hence the study of rationality is vital for the study of the rational action that is the heart of the study of humanity. Whereas students of nature seldom pay attention to the rationality and the scientific character of their studies, students of humanities are engrossed in them. And whatever their views on this rationality, at least they openly center on it. Thus in the opening of his classic An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith declares his intent to ignore irrationality, no matter how widespread it is. Slavery is widespread, yet everyone knows that putting a worker in chains is no incentive, he observed.

The Enlightenment movement deemed Smiths argument obvious; this led to its dismissal of human history as the sad story of needless pain caused by ignorance and superstition. This was an error. The advocacy of the abolition of slavery came in total disregard for its immediate impact on the lot of slave owners. Smith spoke of rationality in the abstract. Because high productivity depends on the division of labor and because this division leads to trade, freedom is efficient. Selfish conduct is rational as long as it is scientific, that is, undogmatic. Life in the light of reason is egalitarian, simple, and happy. This abstract reasoning led to concrete results, including the French Revolution and its terror and wars. Edmund Burke and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel blamed the radicalism of the revolution for its deterioration into terror. The reaction to the French Revolution was aggressively hostile to radicalism, to egalitarianism, and even to reason (Hegel).

Karl Marx wedded the two great modern movements, the radical Enlightenment movement and the Romantic reaction to it. The former had the right vision, and the latter had the historically right view of the obstacle to its realization. Smith-style harmony between individual and society has no place in traditional society. Hence the institution of enlightened equality is an essential precondition for it. The realization of the radical dream of harmony requires civil war. But it is certainly realizable, he insisted.

Marxs critique of radicalism from within is as popular as ever. We are chained to our social conditions, and rationalism cannot break them. Max Weber, the author of the most popular alternative to Marxs ideas, stressed this; so do all the popular radical critics of the ills of modern (bourgeois) society, chiefly imperialism, racism, and sexism, perhaps also alienation from work. These critics puzzle the uninitiated, as they seem to belabor condemnations of obviously indefensible aspects of modern society. But they do something else; they advance a thesis. Social evils will not go away by sheer mental exercises. Are there any reasonable people who disagree with this thesis? It is hard to say. Perhaps some thinkers still follow the central thesis of the Enlightenment movement. If such people do exist (as seems true but not obviously so), then they are the neoliberals, the Chicago school of economics, which is not confined to economics, as it preaches the idea that a world with free markets still is the best of all possible worlds, even though it is far from ideal (Friedrich A. von Hayek).

What then is rationalism? Of the alternative views on reason, which can count as variants of rationalism? Consider pragmatism, the view of the useful as the true (Hegel, William James, John Dewey). It is unsatisfactory, because assessments of usefulness may be true or not; but is it a version of rationalism? Consider the traditionalist reliance on the test of time (ordinary-language philosophy; neo-Thomism). The assessment of the relative worth of traditions may be cultural (Martin Buber, Amitai Ezioni; communitarianism) or intellectual (Michael Polanyi, Thomas S. Kuhn; postcriticalism). It is unsatisfactory, as these assessments may be true or not; but is it a version of rationalism? There is no telling. The same holds for appeals to other criteria for truth. These are common sense (Hume, Smith, Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson, George Edward Moore), the intuitions of Great Men (Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Hegel, Martin Heidegger), higher religious sentiments (Friedrich Schleiermacher, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy), and superior tastes (Richard Rorty). Are these variants of rationalism? Do they lead to more reasonable human conduct? The standard claim is that their asset is in their ability to maintain social stability. But in the early twenty-first century stability is unattainable and even deemed inferior to democratic controls (Karl R. Popper).

There is no consensus about whether the counsel to limit reason and admit religion is rationalism proper (Moses Maimonides, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Robert Boyle, Moses Mendelssohn, Polanyi) or not (Immanuel Kant, David Strauss, Ludwig Feuerbach, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Adolf Grnbaum). The only consensus is about the defiance of reason (Sren Kierkegaard, Max Stirner, Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, Georges Sorel, Friedrich Nietzsche, D. H. Lawrence, Heidegger, perhaps also Paul Feyerabend). The only generally admitted necessary condition for rationalism is the demand to side with reason. Therefore it is fashionable to limit rationalism by allowing the taking of a single axiom on faith while otherwise swearing allegiance to reason (Polanyi, Richard H. Popkin, Pope John Paul II; fideism). The default view should then be that this allegiance suffices. Add to this the consensus around a necessary condition for this allegiance. It is the critical attitude, openness to criticism, the readiness to admit the success of the criticism of any given view. Consider the view that the critical attitude is sufficient as the default option (Popper) and seek valid criticism of it that may lead to its modification, to the admission of some unavoidable limitations on reason, whether in the spirit of Marx or in that of his critics. The need for this limitation comes from purely philosophical considerations. Hume said that we need induction for knowledge and for practice, yet it is not rational (it has no basis in logic); instead, we rely on it out of habit and necessity and this is the best we can do. A popular variant of this is that because induction is necessary, it is in no need of justification (Kant, Russell). Another variant takes it on faith (Polanyi, Popkin; fideism). Is induction really necessary?

This question is welcome. Since finding alternative answers to a worthy question improves their assessment, they are all worthy. Hence all versions of limited rationalism are welcomeas hypotheses to investigate (Salomon Maimon, Popper). This is the power of the method of always trying out the minimal solution as the default.

Critical rationalism is revolutionary because it replaces proof with test; it replaces radical, wholesale dismissal of ideas with the readiness to test piecemeal (Albert Einstein, Popper; reformism). The demand to prove thus yields to the critical attitude (William Warren Bartley III, Willard Van Orman Quine; non-justificationism), recognizing that theories possess graded merit (Einstein, Leonard Nelson, Popper; critical rationalism)by whatever rule we happen to follow, no matter how tentative. Rules are then hopefully improvable (Charles Sanders Peirce, Russell, Popper; fallibilism). Hence diverse rules may serve as competing criteria or as complementary. Being minimalist, critical rationalism invites considering some older theologians as allies, although not their contemporary followers. Unlike radical rationalism, critical rationalism is historically oriented. (It is the view of rationality as relative to contexts and of truth as absolute, as a guiding principle la Kant.)

This invites critical rationalism to enlist rational thought as a category of rational action (Ian C. Jarvie and Joseph Agassi). And this in turn invites the study of rationalism as an aspect of extant scientific research. It also invites comparison of the various versions of rationalism as to the degree of their adequacy to this task: take scientific research as it is, warts and all, and examine its merits and defects according to the diverse alternatives. This attitude is new and expressed in various studies of the sociology of science, so-called, that often spread over diverse disciplines, including political science and even criminology no less. This renders a part of the project of rationalism the assessments of the intellectual value of the outcome of research, theoretical, practical, or culturalor even aesthetic. The only intellectual justification of a scientific theory, said Einstein, is its ability to explain; its best reward is its successors admission of it as approximate. In this way he stressed that the aim of research is to explain in the hope of approximating the truth. This is open to debate. Social science as a whole may serve as a test case, with the sociology of science at the center of the debate on this matter.

Historically, rationalism doggedly accompanied studies of nature, not social studies. What in these should rationalism approve of? Discussion of this question allowed rationalism to inform the social sciences. A conspicuous example is the vagueness in social studies of the boundaries between philosophy, science, and practice that still invites open discussion. Anything less is below the minimal criterion of the critical attitude.

Critics of minimal rationalism find criticism insufficient, since positive criteria of choice need justification. If so, then rationalism is back to square one. If not, then positive criteria must be tentative, and the issue must shift from their justification to efforts at their improvement. Some do not like this, as it rests on their initial choice that was too arbitrary. They prefer to return to the initial criterion and replace it with the least arbitrary one. They are radicals. The clash is thus between the radical and the critical version of rationalismas well as between them and fideism.

The agenda of rationalismin philosophy, in science, or in practiceis the same: heightening the critical attitude, seeking improvement through criticism everywhere. Where is the starting point? How are we to decide on our agenda? Parliamentary steering committees decide on agendas. The commonwealth of learning, however, is its own steering committee. Those concerned to promote rationalism should do their best to put discussions of it high on the public agenda.

Agassi, Joseph. 1996. The Philosophy of Science Today. In Philosophy of Science, Logic, and Mathematics in the Twentieth Century. Vol. 9 of Routledge History of Philosophy, ed. Stuart G. Shanker, 235-265. London: Routledge.

Agassi, Joseph, and Ian C. Jarvie, eds. 1987. Rationality: The Critical View. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Baumgardt, Carola. 1952. Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters. Introduction by Albert Einstein. London: Golancz.

Burtt, E. A. 1926. The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science. London: Routledge.

Churchman, C. West. 1968. Challenge to Reason. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Einstein, Albert. 1954. Ideas and Opinions. New York: Bonanza Books.

Festinger, Leon. 1957. Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Feyerabend, Paul. 1987. Farewell to Reason. London: New Left Books.

Haakonssen, Knud, ed. 2006. The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Hayek, Friedrich August von. 1952. The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Hayek, Friedrich August von. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Jarvie, Ian C. 1964. The Revolution in Anthropology. London: Routledge.

Jarvie, Ian C., and Joseph Agassi. 1987. The Rationality of Magic. In Rationality: The Critical View, ed. Joseph Agassi and Ian C. Jarvie, 363-383. The Hague: Nijhoff.

John Paul II, Pope. 1998. Fides et Ratio. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

Koyr, Alexandre, 1968. Metaphysics and Measurement. London: Chapman and Hall.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1970. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lakatos, Imre, and Alan Musgrave. 1970. Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Mill, John Stuart. 1843. A System of Logic. London: J. W. Parker.

Naess, Arne. 1968. Scepticism. London: Routledge and K. Paul; New York: Humanities.

Nelson, Leonard. 1949. Socratic Method and Critical Philosophy: Selected Essays. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; repr. New York: Dover, 1965.

Nisbet, Robert A. 1966. The Sociological Tradition. New York: Basic Books.

Osler, Margaret J., ed. 2000. Rethinking the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Parkinson, G. H. R., ed. 1993. The Renaissance and Seventeenth-Century Rationalism. Vol. 4 of Routledge History of Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Phillips, Derek L. 1973. Abandoning Method. London: Jossey-Bass.

Pitte, Frederick P. van de. 1971. Kant as Philosophical Anthropologist. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Polanyi, Michael. 1958. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. London: Routledge.

Polanyi, Michael. 1962. The Republic of Science. In Criteria for Scientific Development, ed. Edward Shils, 1-20. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Popper, Karl R. 1945. The Open Society and Its Enemies. 2 vols. London: Routledge.

Rees, Graham, and Maria Wakely. 2004. Introduction. In The Instauratio Magna. Part 2, Novum Organum and Associated Texts. Vol. 11 of The Oxford Francis Bacon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Russell, Bertrand. 1912. The Problems of Philosophy. London: Williams and Norgate; New York: Henry Holt.

Russell, Bertrand. 1945. A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Simon, Robert L., ed. 2002. The Blackwell Guide to Social and Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell.

Solomon, Robert C. 1988. Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wettersten, John R. 1992. The Roots of Critical Rationalism. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Joseph Agassi

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California Eugenics Laws: Professor Says State Should …

Posted: December 19, 2016 at 6:04 pm

University of Michigan professor Alex Stern has completed a database of thousands recommended for sterilization when California had eugenics laws on the book and she says those alive should be compensated. Michigan Photography hide caption

There’s a grim chapter in American history that involves forced sterilization. And for much of this past century, California had one of the most active sterilization programs in the country.

A state law from 1909 authorized the surgery for people judged to have “mental disease, which may have been inherited.” That law remained on the books until 1979.

University of Michigan professor Alexandra Minna Stern has been working to identify people who were forcibly sterilized under California’s program. NPR’s Ailsa Chang spoke with Stern, who said this idea of eugenics was intended to “eradicate certain genes from the population.”

The professor describes the program as a historic injustice and called for the state of California to compensate surviving victims of sterilization of relatives of those who are now deceased.

The interview highlights contain some extra content that did not air in the broadcast version.

A 1935 recommendation to sterilize a 23-year-old male patient at Pacific Colony, based a supposed IQ of 75. His foster mother refused the sterilization. The outcome of this case is unknown, but in some instances medical superintendents disregarded such appeals. California Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects Protocol ID 13-08-1310 and the University of Michigan Biomedical IRB HUM00084931 hide caption

A 1935 recommendation to sterilize a 23-year-old male patient at Pacific Colony, based a supposed IQ of 75. His foster mother refused the sterilization. The outcome of this case is unknown, but in some instances medical superintendents disregarded such appeals.

On how she found the names of all the victims

The names are located in 19 microfilm reels that I happened upon while doing research in Sacramento about seven years ago.

On what made her look at the microfilms

I’ve written a book on the history of eugenics in California. But at that point, I still knew very little about the sterilizations themselves; who was sterilized, where did all of the sterilizations take place, how is the policy enacted?

So I did a bit of sleuthing and went to the actual departments themselves the department of mental health in this case, in Sacramento and was fortunate that someone there directed me to some file cabinets that contained microfilm reels with materials that had been microfilmed over the course of the ’60s and ’70s.

And lo and behold, there they were! I was able to begin using them as historical documents and that’s how the project started.

On whether she found any patterns among the 20,000 names she discovered

Our team (and I should say this is the effort of a research team that includes epidemiologists, historians, digital humanists), we have a found a variety of patterns and we keep discovering more.

For example, we have determined that patients with Spanish surnames were much more likely to be sterilized than other patients, demonstrating that there was a racial bias in the sterilization program. We were also able to show the kinds of diagnoses that were given to patients, how that affected times of sterilization. We’re able to look at age of sterilization and also patterns related to gender.

So there’s a whole range of patterns that will help us to understand this pattern of history in California and also how it relates to national dynamics more broadly.

On what Stern and her team found with regard to age and gender patterns

Well, we found that people were sterilized at very young ages, that really often the focus was on minors, people as young as 7. The average age of sterilization was the low 20s, so many of these people were 15, 16, 17 and 18. We also found that, as I mentioned before, that the Spanish surname individuals were more likely to be sterilized at younger ages, indicating that there was interest on behalf of the state at targeting them at lower reproductive ages. In terms of gender, that pattern that I just mentioned, pertains to women as well.

One of the interesting things that we discovered is that initially, more men were sterilized. It started off as sterilization in general and across the country and in California, focused more on men in the teens and 20s and into the 30s. But by the 1930s, that pattern started to change. So by the ’40s and ’50s, more women were being sterilized.

On what kinds of “mental diseases” were focused on

It’s very important to take that terminology with many historic grains of salt. If we go back in time and look at what the terms meant, it often meant people who were not conforming to societal norms, people who were poor, people who lacked education, perhaps didn’t speak sufficient English to make it through school, and so on.

But what it meant for those who were enacting the law were people who were determined to have poor IQs, people with certain psychiatric disorders. But generally, often the way it was used was much more as a catch-all category so people who just didn’t fit, kind of like the misfits of society, so to speak. That’s the way they looked at them.

Looking back on it, I would say that those who were institutionalized because many more people where institutionalized than actually sterilized was because maybe they had a psychiatric condition and they were sent to an institution as was the policy at the time in the mid-20th century. …

But for the most part, this program of eugenics … the idea of sterilization was to eradicate certain genes from the population.

On whether anyone among those who were sterilized are still alive

I haven’t found anyone who’s still alive. I have been contacted by relatives … people who contacted me whose aunts or uncles were sterilized at some of these institutions. In the recent paper that my team published, we determined through statistical analysis that it is likely that slightly over 800 people, about 500 women and 300 men, are alive today.

Those numbers don’t map on to exact people, they don’t correspond to a precise person. But what we’ve done, we’ve generated the most reliable estimates, and based on that estimate and also looking at the timing, we estimate that the majority of these people were sterilized between 1945 and 1949 and their average age is about 88, so fairly old.

So what we could do is we could go and look at the records. And that’s where I’d like to work with the state of California, because we’ve essentially created a eugenics registry. We can look at the records and identify likely individuals and then reach out and contact them.

I, however, would like to mention that two states that have enacted policies for monetary reparations for sterilization victims North Carolina and Virginia the states have to lead in kind of creating a committee and a registry. And because it was the state seeking to provide some type of redress and acknowledge this history, the state was able to actively set up a program and seek out and try to identify individuals. So they would come to the state and they would confirm through documentation that they had been sterilized and then receive recognition and monetary compensation.

On if there are indications that California is interested in compensating victims of sterilization

There’s indication that the state is interested in this history and is aware of possibility of sterilization abuse. Just three years ago, news broke that about 150 women in two California women’s prisons had been sterilized without proper consent and proper procedure. That resulted in a state audit in the interest of the state legislators and eventually, a law that was unanimously passed, banning sterilizations except under extreme medical circumstances in California state prisons. So this issue is on the radar screen.

It’s easy to forget about these patients who were in these remote institutions in the 1940s and ’50s in California. However, I think it behooves the state to not forget this history, and all of us to not forget this history. So hopefully, having this fairly solid number that we’ve generated of an estimate of likely living survivors could help facilitate that process. …

It would also be a good idea to think about other forms of recognition of this historical injustice. For example, putting up a historical plaque in Sacramento somewhere to recognize those who were sterilized, or at one of the institutions such as the Sonoma State Home or the Patton State Home, making sure this history is included in K-12 curriculum.

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California Eugenics Laws: Professor Says State Should …

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